Steelers Say They Want To Get Javon Hargrave More Playing Time

It’s a good problem to have. But still, a problem, and one we’ve discussed a dozen times on this site. How does Javon Hargrave get more snaps?

It’s a question the Pittsburgh Steelers are still asking themselves.

With the bye week, the assistant coaches talked to the media and John Mitchell was asked about Hargrave’s playing time.

“I’d like to get him on the field more,” Mitchell said in an interview via “But now I have a decision. I have to take either Cam or 91 off the field.”

For the year, Hargrave has played 47% of the defense’s snaps, a number that has been helped at least a little by the absence of Stephon Tuitt. Cam Heyward is at an 85% clip and only counting games Tuitt has finished is even higher, playing 86.7% of the time.

But Hargrave’s talent and production is undeniable and the always candid Mitchell had nothing but good things to say about him.

“This man is a smart guy. He has the physical attributes to be a good football player and he’s showing it every week. I got nothing but a lot of praise for him. But he’s doing it every day in practice.”

Rare praise on such a young player. We have an interview with Aaron Smith tomorrow who has a different experience early in his career with Mitchell. But Hargrave’s earned it all, already matching last season’s sack total of two. He made impactful play after impactful play in last Sunday’s win over Detroit, including a 4th and goal pressure to preserve the win.

Getting into specifics, Mitchell talked about what makes Hargrave as successful as he’s been.

“First of all, he uses his hands. For a young guy, in his second year, he uses his hands as well as anybody I’ve had this early in his career. And plus, he can get off blocks. And this guy, it doesn’t look like he’s running fast but he’s running pretty fast…he’s a smart football player. Good football players get blocked but don’t stay blocked.”

In a world of sub-package football, it’s tough to find room for a nose tackle. But the Steelers need to find the magic touch, the right balance, to keep Hargrave on the field.

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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.
  • Bastiat

    “But now I have a decision. I have to take either Cam or 91 off the field.”
    No you don’t. Keep all three of them on the field on 3rd down. You’re putting the scheme ahead of the players and in this particular case it’s a mistake.

  • kdubs412

    To be fair, it’s not his call, it’s butler’s. But I agree that throwing your hands up and saying the scheme prevents you from playing him more isn’t a satisfactory solution when Hargrave is probably our most consistently effective pass rusher. Gotta find ways to get him more snaps, even if that means thinking outside the box and taking some snaps away from a guy like dupree.

  • colingrant

    I think Hargrave’s a better natural pass rusher than Tuitt. Not sure how that translates to getting onto the field though and apparently neither does the staff. On 3rd and 9 and needing the opponents offensive line to get blown up, I have Harrison, Heyward and Hargraves lined up as the three giving me the best chance at getting off the field.

  • The can always mix up the nickle, instead of pulling Hargrave off the field and going 2-4-5, pull Williams and go 3-3-5.

    Just a possibility.

  • Ray Istenes

    I agree.

    I would pull VW or one of the OLB. I think Tuitt, Cam, hargrave, + one OLB give better pressure than Tuitt, Cam, and both OLB’s. Or at the very least have the three on the field on second and long and people won’t want to run as much on second and long.

    If nothing else mix it up and show someone another look. We have the depth so use it gentlemen.

  • Grant Humphrey

    He’s done a pretty good job when he’s in there just causing havoc. I do think he needs to be out there more.

  • Hubert Parker

    Just rotate between the three. The benefits of that keeps them fresh

  • Rob H

    Was just about to post the exact same thing, I even copied the same quote from Mitchell.

    Butler has often talked about adjusting the scheme to fit the talent, I can’t think of a better situation to put that into practice,

    The fact that I’ve been calling for exactly that since they drafted Hargrave is just coincidental.

  • Rob H

    Could be Dupree for a few snaps, Williams for a few, giving Tuitt a breather here and there, there’s plenty of ways to make it work.

  • thomas hmmmm

    I would start to see how the 3-4 goes more often especially versus the pass. What is the point of drafting fast LB’s if they are not on the field versus fast players?

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    I’d love to see a 4 man front from time to time…those 3 and either Alualu or Bud as the 4th…depending on the situation. You could run a 4-2-5 or a 4-3 out of it

  • Steeldog22

    Not just a possibility and I’m in complete agreement. Been calling for a Tuitt Heyward JWobble and Watt/Harrison front 4 in some situations for some time now.

  • Mark

    I’d rather see Cam, Hargrave, Tuitt, and Watt on the field pass rushing on 3rd down. Pull Bud and/or Vince off the field. I bet those 4 could get to the QB instead of Bud rushing 10 yards pass the QB.

  • Danny Young

    If Hilton can keep blitzing from the slot as well as he has, i dont see why we couldnt run a 3 man front w him in there and kick Cam out to the edge.

    If he keeps producing, you have to move things around to let him eat

  • ryan72384

    No you don’t have to take Cam or Tuitt off the field! Keep all 3 of these monsters on the field together and give the o line some real problems. We rarely ever get to see all 3 of them together I would love to see Cam Tuitt and Grave all rushing the QB on passing downs for a change. Pre snap have TJ floating around behind them so they aren’t sure where he is coming from and then just have him attack the middle somewhere. Rush your 4 best passrushers.

  • Rob H

    They’re already using the base 3-4 a LOT more.
    Base- 202 snaps, 42% (29% last year), 84 passing plays, 118 rushing plays.
    Nickel- 147 snaps, 30% (64% last year)
    Dime- 122 snaps, (58 snaps total, all of last season)

  • Dan

    Guess I’m not unique in wanting to see 3-3-5 looks. I like VW and all, but I’d rather him come off the field than Hargrave at this point. They could still have Bud or Watt put their hand in the dirt on third and long for a pseudo 4-2-5 look.

  • The Dumpmaster

    Therein lies the problem.
    If you have to go heavy up front – the “3” of the “3 4,” then that casts doubt on your OLBs’ abilities.

  • Guest12

    Run a 3-3-5 from time to time or even a 4-2-5, we’ve got 3 beasts on the line so let em loose

  • Guest12

    Or run a 4-2-5, Cam, Tuitt, Grave, Bud on the line with Shay and TJ in he middle

  • Reggie Cunningham

    i’m just not a butler fan. We should’ve went somewhere else. You got those 3 monsters but he don’t know how to use them

  • Brenton deed

    Everyone is thinking something like this … they must be too . So I wonder if they have anything in store for NE?
    Three monster DLs … Watt or Shazier to watch people like Gronk.,, tighter man coverage???
    The coaches must’ve been stewing on the AFCCG and have schemes but you need the right personnel. I’m intrigued by how much they’re dropping Watt into coverage.

  • RMSteeler

    Yeah, Butler and Haley, all those weapons and don’t know how to use them. It’s getting old.

  • Gautama Om

    Easy decision; pull Dupree for Hargrave.

    Watt, jack of all trades (run, coverage, and pass support), over Dupree any day.

  • Dubb Betts

    Except when Tuitt was out you still didn’t use JWobble more.

    Also I’d love to see a 3-3-5 with Bud and TJ roaming around, rushing from different places. But that’s probably over his head.

  • Michael James

    If you have to pull an OLB, it would be Dupree, not Watt.
    Watt is already a far better pass-rusher (player) than Dupree.

  • That is exactly the 3-3-5 I described above. However you slice it, it’s 3 lineman and 3 linebackers, hence 3-3-5.

  • I wasn’t pulling and OLB I was pulling an ILB in Williams. Shazier and Watt would be your cover backers. You could even mix it up farther and play an under front where Watt plays the end on the right and Tuitt is your left end and Dupree can cover with Shazier.

  • The nickle package is usually a 4 man front with the OLBs playing the ends and Tuitt and Heyward playing DTs. It has always been like this going way, way back.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    Agreed but that’s when they get gouged by a run…no beef. Use 4 biggins alla the Giants, create a rush and stop the run

  • Jason R

    I’ve bothered ex w this for a few years now, but this could be the time. A 335 would allow 97 79 and 91 on the line w 90 and 48 outside and 50 over the middle. Even vs the run we can roll Davis closer to the box. It puts our best 6 on the field together w 31 there instead of 98. I’d love it. And as I always remind Alex, Tomlin and Butler used the 335 at Memphis when they coached there together. So there’s that too.

  • Jason R

    Alex not ex.

  • Jim Foles

    Are we the number one team in the AFC at the half way mark.. Is this the Bengals site??

  • PittShawnC

    Our best group of pass rushing lineman since the Curtain need to be on the field as much as possible.

  • Dorian James

    There are enough 3 DL fronts to pick from, incorporate a few more and go from there.

  • capehouse

    Then why is Alualu getting most of the snaps in Tuitt’s absence?

  • thomas hmmmm

    Nice… I wasn’t aware of the numbers.. I assume teams are trying to be more balanced than previous seasons. After the Chicago and Jags games I think teams saw a potential weakness in the D.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Do you have any numbers on the completion percentage on those 84 passing plays in the base 3-4?

  • Rob H

    All I could find on the chart I took the numbers from was that they gave up 449 passing yards at an average of 5.35 yards per catch, gave up 3 TD’s, with 2 INT’s and 2 FF’s. Surprised they didn’t list the sacks or completions.

  • #beatthepats

    Couldnt agree more.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Figures the 5.35 is the average per attempt and not the average per completion. The 3tds 2 ints and 2ff is pretty good though.