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Updating the Steelers usage, and success, of the dime defensive package

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We put our stat geek on the job of updating the Steelers’ success of their dime defensive package.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is markedly improved in 2017, especially in the secondary, and a large reason for that has been improved personnel, looking at you Mike Hilton and Joe Haden, and more experience in the number of sub packages Keith Butler deploys on a regular basis.

The one sub package which has been unbelievably successful has been their ‘dime’ package. Our local stat geek (58Steel) dove into the first half numbers of the sub package, its usage and the success of it vs. the opposition.

Time for the Stat Geek to take over...


To refresh, the Steelers remove a DL and replace them with an extra CB in their nickel package. This is typically used when offenses go with 3 WR sets. In their dime package, the Steelers use their nickel base, but replace a LB (typically Vince Williams) with another DB (William Gay). The dime package is predominantly used in 3rd and medium-long situations. It has also been used as a "prevent" defense, such as obvious passing situations with little time left in a half, Steelers with a lead late in game, etc,.

Of the 495 snaps the Steelers defense has played (Pro Foootball Reference lists 477 plays. The discrepancy is due to penalties), 124 of them came in the dime package. That's 25% of the snaps. I have 123 plays (about 15/game); one play not counted due to a penalty.

The most number of plays for the dime package was 27 (on 69 plays, 39%) vs. the Ravens. That number is skewed by the Ravens last drive, after the Steelers scored to make it a 26-9 game. All 15 plays of that drive came with the Steelers in dime personnel.

The least # of plays for the dime package was 8 (on 54 plays, 14.8%) vs the Jaguars. Self explanatory on that one.

Here's the overall stats for the dime package:

Att-99, Cmp-51, Cmp%-51.5%, Yards-604, Yards/Att-6.1, INT-3 (3.0%), Sacks-9 (8.65%)

QB scrambles-5-40 yards, Called Runs-10-41 yards

Where the dime package really shined was in 3rd/4th down. Opponents have converted 21/86, or 24.4%.

If we subtract out the "prevent" usage of the dime package, only looking at 3rd/4th downs, we have:

Att-63, Cmp-30, Cmp%-47.6%, Yards-327-Yards/Att-5.19, INT-3 (4.76%), Sacks-9 (14.2%)

Looking at highs and lows, the "worst" performance from the dime came vs the Chiefs:

"Only" 8 of 18 passing, but for 185 yards (by far the most vs the dime this season), over 10 yards/att. The Steelers did have 1 sack (we should all remember that one. Thanks Deebo!)

The "best" performance from the dime is a close call between the Vikings:

6 of 14 passing for 54 yards (3.86 Yards/Att), 1 fumble, 1 sack, 2/14 on 3rd/4th down

and the Lions:

4 of 13 passing for 77 yards (4.53 Yards/Att), 1 sack, 2/11 on 3rd/4th down

Any way you look at it, the dime package has been an integral, and successful part of the Steelers defense in 2017.