Steelers’ Defensive Charting: First Six Weeks

As usual, our charting for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense. This is out of 372 snaps, excluding the ones that didn’t involve a snap.

Personnel groupings.

3-4: 147 (39.5%)
Nickel: 130 (34.9%)
Dime: 90 (24.2%)
Goal Line: 4 (1%)
3-5-3: 1 (.3%)

Add up the nickel dime and the Steelers have been in subpackage 59.1%. Compare that to 70.5% last year. So seeing that number come down though games like Jacksonville have skewed the numbers a bit.

In the first month, the Steelers used their “over” front 35 times. That’s 8.8 times per game. In the past two weeks, they’ve done it just three times. Hasn’t been as effective as Keith Butler hoped, allowing 4.3 YPC.

– Butler has blitzed (our definition) 28.7% of the time, down over 10% from last year. This is similar to what Dick LeBeau did his final year. By his definition, sending 5+, he’s blitzed only 16.1%. Again, that’s down about 10% from last year.

Let’s dive in position-by-position.

Defensive Line

Javon Hargrave has just nine nickel snaps over the past three weeks. 31 on the season. Number has to rise this week with Stephon Tuitt out.

DL Pressures

Heyward: 13
Tuitt: 11
Hargrave: 6
Alualu: 1
LT Walton: 0

Snaps Per Pressure

Tuitt: 8.3
Hargrave: 12.5
Heyward: 14.6
Alualu: 101

Tuitt’s numbers were certainly helped out by last Sunday’s game. Had a position high six pressures against the Chiefs. Walton and Alualu continue to prove they’re ineffective pass rushers.


Ryan Shazier has missed only two snaps all season. Even more impressive are the numbers when he’s targeted. Like a shutdown corner.

4/11 32 yards 0 TD, 3 INTs (includes the one he tipped that Mike Hilton picked).

Vince Williams has lined up as an OLB 23 times this season. Led to one of his four sacks. Shazier’s done it 26.

The big ones, pressure numbers.

Total Pressures

Dupree: 10.5
Watt: 7
Harrison: 3
Chickillo: 4

Snaps Per Pressure

Harrison: 4.3
Watt: 11
Dupree: 11.2
Chickillo: 21

– Coverage/drop percentages

Watt: 45.8%
Harrison: 31.6%
Chickillo: 27%
Dupree: 26.1%

– Watt’s number is still absurdly high. Never seen anything like it. You can see the right side dropping much more than the left which is in-line with how the Steelers have operated over the past several years.


Mike Hilton has more pressures (six) than the rest of the secondary combined (four). Of course, he’s been blitzed a ton, too, 29 times.

– Target numbers.

Joe Haden: 2/6 36 yards 0 TD, 0 INT
William Gay: 1/3 13 yards
Mike Mitchell: 2/4 56 yards
Artie Burns: 8/17 131 yards 2 TDs, 0 INTs
Sean Davis: 6/9 66 yards 1 TD 0 INTs
Mike Hilton: 3/6 22 yards 0 TD 0 INTs

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Cullen James Riley

    I understand that Artie Burns is still a young player & is still developing, but it kind of surprises me how much he is getting targetted compared to everyone else.

    I mean he doesn’t even have the worst percentage of receptions:
    Joe Haden: 33.3%
    Willie Gay: 33.3%
    Artie Burns: 47.06%
    Mike Hilton: 50%
    Mike Mitchell: 50%
    Sean Davis: 66.6%

    Maybe it is just the recievers that he has been getting lined up against?

  • Rob H

    “Javon Hargrave has just nine nickel snaps over the past three weeks. 31 on the season. Number has to rise this week with Stephon Tuitt out.”

    Yea, you would think so, especially with those snaps per pressure numbers you listed.
    So, why is it that I’m preparing myself to be ticked off by how many of those subpackage snaps Mitchell gives to Alualu tomorrow?

  • #beatthepats

    Great stuff as usual Alex, I wonder what the breakdown of the first half of the chief game was? It seemed as though it was more base. But most certanly it was the single most dominate half in years.

  • Uncle Rico.

    4 TD passes, and just 3 credited to the DBs. Assume the missing one is the PA pass at Chicago on matakevich. Guessing you’re crediting Davis with the Wallace TD? In the RZ between the 10 and 20 the Steelers like to run a sorta 4×4 C4. 4 deep, 4 under zone with 3 rushers. I thought Haden was influenced by the #1 and didn’t get proper depth. If that was C2, then it would be on Davis, but I’m pretty sure they’re in 4 deep, 4 under.

  • Alex Kozora

    Yes, the TD was not on a DB…heck, they only had one DB in the game, I think. Yes, I did credit Davis with the Wallace TD. Really tough call, pretty sure I had it on Haden originally and then changed my mind looking at it again. I thought Wallace bent the route enough into Davis’ window.

  • Uncle Rico.

    Thanks. Just curious.

  • capehouse

    Yeah Watt’s coverage percentage is crazy. I feel like it’s not such a bad thing either.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Because he sucks versus the run in rthe nickle and dime packages but no one wants to admit it. Pass pressure isnt end all be all stat.

  • Uncle Rico.

    Didn’t mean to down vote you, missed when attempting to click reply. Anyway, Hargrave has been in on 11 dime snaps, just one run against for 2 yards. 17 nickel snaps, just 4 run attempts but for 35 total yards. However, small sample skewed by Cook’s 25 yard run where VW gave a really good Uncle Jarvis impersonation, selling out on a wide looping pass rush after blowing off his run/pass key. Hargrave wasn’t the reason they gave up the big play on that run. Hargrave and Shazier were the reason Cook had to cut it back. VW was why the backside was blown.

    He’s been on the field for just 5 total run attempts versus subpacks. Too small a number to make any definitive judgments. You could make a stronger argument against his run defense in base. Overall, nickel is averaging 2.46 yards against on 43 runs, while giving up twice that in their base defense at 5.34 yards per run on 93 attempts. But I’d argue that their base D isn’t getting blown off the ball. That high number is the result of too many big plays, and most all of them have been due to gaps been vacated or failed to be filled, rather than getting rooted/moved out. Their base defense average against the run is exactly the same with or without Hargrave on the field.