It wasn't always pretty for the Pittsburgh Steelers in their 38-35 win over the Oakland Raiders at Heinz Field Sunday, but when it mattered the most, plays were made. Most will turn to Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger and DeAngelo Wiliams as the genuine difference makers in this game, but the defense had to stand up and make plays when it counted too.
When reviewing the snap totals for the Steelers following the game, looking at the defensive numbers certainly reveals a lot in regards to the team's feelings about Cam Thomas, as well as Keith Butler's game plan heading into this game.
The Raiders possess a very young and talented offense led by Derek Carr and Amari Cooper, but what might be even more impressive about the offense is their offensive line. The Steelers clearly wanted to deploy their nickel and dime sub packages as often as possible, to protect their secondary in the back half of the defense. This would be one of the reasons Steve McLendon played a mere 12 snaps, Daniel McCullers just 4 and Cam Thomas 0 on Sunday. Yes, Thomas did not play a defensive snap in the Week 9 game.
Compound such facts with Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt both playing 100-percent of the defensive snaps and you see what the team was trying to do defensively to slow down the Raiders. It was surprising to see Tuitt, who had missed the past two games with a knee sprain, play every defensive snap, and fatigue could have been a factor in the lack of pass rush and run stopping in the second half of the game.
The Steelers chose not to spell Tuitt or Heyward, who just welcomed his first child Saturday, with McLendon or Thomas, and you have to ask if this was an issue along the defensive front.
Other than the defensive front, it was also interesting to see Roosevelt Nix get his most offensive snaps of the year (29) as the Steelers focused on a more power running game with a lead blocker. It certainly paid off with DeAngelo Williams rushing for over 170 yards on the day.
Check out the complete list of Steelers Snap Counts below, courtesy of Pro-Football Reference.
Steelers Snap Counts