The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16, and although the victory was huge, for multiple reasons, there is a story inside the numbers which tells a different story. No, I’m not referring to the usual statistics people follow, but the snap totals.
When a player steps on the field, he has logged a snap. Looking at the snap totals can show what packages the team deployed, players who stepped up and so much more. I break down 5 trends from the Week 16 snap totals which fans should be concerned with moving forward.
L.T. Walton stepping up
The Steelers were already without Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, but in the process they could have found another solid defensive lineman to provide quality depth at a position they desperately need it. Walton, a 6th round pick from Central Michigan, spent his share of time on the inactive list early this season, but has turned into someone who can step in and play 67 snaps (89-percent). This is exactly what happened in Week 16, but these weren’t just filler snaps, but quality snaps. When Tuitt returns, I think it is safe to say the team should be confident and comfortable putting Walton on the field to help give someone a breather.
Throughout the team’s 6-game winning streak, it has been the same cast of characters who have been making an impact on the lineup. Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown top the list, but other than Ladarius Green there haven’t been many others to step up. In Week 16, without Green in the lineup, the Steelers deployed more wide receivers than usual, and for significant time too. Other than Antonio Brown, Eli Rogers played 44 snaps, Cobi Hamilton 29 and Demarcus Ayers 16. Throw in Jesse James’ 49 snaps, David Johnson’s 10 snaps and Xavier Grimble’s 9, the Steelers went deep into the well to get through the game without Sammie Coates and Ladarius Green.
Another rookie to add to the mix
While fans are clamoring over the Steelers current rookie class, and rightfully so, here is another rookie who is destined to make an impact down the stretch run of this season. That would be none other than wide receiver Demarcus Ayers. Ayers played in just 16 snaps, but made an impact when on the field. It was Ayers’ drawing a key defensive pass interference call, as well as catching a key pass on the team’s final drive of the game, and wisely was able to get out of bounds to stop the clock. Just add another feather to an already stacked 2016 NFL Draft class.
The Steelers had deployed a lot of their jumbo offensive package throughout their 6-game winning streak. Fullback Roosevelt Nix and offensive tackle Chris Hubbard were used to pound the ball down the defense’s throat, but against Baltimore the Steelers didn’t use the jumbo package as much. Nix played just 11 offensive snaps, with Hubbard playing 10 snaps. This is a trend which very well could change in the coming weeks, but it shows how the Steelers wanted to spread out the Ravens defense.
Jesse James could make 2 TE dual threat
While the loss of Ladarius Green was evident on Sunday, Jesse James filled in quite nicely for the dynamic tight end. James played 49 snaps and had 4 catches for 49 yards. In fact, James showed a level of athleticism, pass catching and blocking which could make for a pretty good two tight end set in the future, something the Steelers haven’t been able to deploy in the past decade or so.