Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Steelers are showing what players they are most impressed with
The snap counts for the Steelers in week 5 aren’t much different from the snap counts in week 3. But there are some differences that are standing out, and may be telling us a lot about how the Steelers view specific players on their roster.
First, the offense…
A few important numbers that you probably know about already are the snap counts for Kevin Dotson as he replaced David DeCastro, as well as the snap counts for Diontae Johnson who left early after only playing 6 snaps and Ray-Ray McCloud getting 18 snaps.
McCloud’s snaps stand out because the Steelers don’t run 4 wide receiver sets often enough that a #4 receiver would get 18 snaps. Steeler running backs played 75 snaps, tight ends played 100 snaps, and the Steelers used a 6th lineman 12 times (11 snaps for Jerald Hawkins and 1 extra snap for Kevin Dotson). They averaged only 2.4 receivers per snap, so they weren’t running 4 wide receiver sets. They were putting Ray-Ray McCloud on the field in place of JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington or Chase Claypool. McCloud is making plays and earning play time in Diontae Johnson’s absence.
Jaylen Samuels played even fewer snaps than he did in week 3, and while Anthony McFarland Jr. played fewer snaps as well, Samuels drop to 2 snaps is a bad sign for his future. He wasn’t targeted and he didn’t run the ball. It looks like he is holding onto his roster spot as a special teams player right now, and with special teams ace Trey Edmunds playing more snaps than Samuels this week, Jaylen Samuels’ hold on his roster spot is tenuous at best. This is a legitimate battle for a roster spot that will likely end when Derek Watt returns.
Minkah Fitzpatrick reprised his role as the safety valve for the Steelers victory formation kneel downs, the 4th straight game the Steelers offense has ended the game with the victory formation after gaining at least one first down. There really isn’t a better way to end a game.
On the defensive side of the ball, there are a few interesting numbers, but none as important as the total number of snaps, which for the second straight week is significantly lower then the offensive snap total.
First off, Devin Bush, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Steven Nelson and Joe Haden remain in the 100% snap club, with Steven Nelson having the lone missed snap this season among them. T.J. Watt missed some time in this game with a minor injury, but he still played 50 of the 59 defensive snaps, while Bud Dupree played all but 4 defensive snaps. That is significantly higher than normal, but it is only the 22nd highest percentage of snaps played for his career, and 55 snaps is only the 28th most snaps he has played on defense in his career.
Mike Hilton continues to see his snap count percentage increase every week this season, playing the 6th highest percentage of snaps he’s played in his career against the Eagles.
Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt stayed in the 70-80% range they have been playing this year, and Tyson Alualu continues to play around 2/3rds of the backup defensive line snaps. It is worth noting that Isaiah Buggs, after trailing Chris Wormley in snaps in week 3, is back to being the 4th defensive lineman.
Ulysees Gilbert III was active for the first time this season, and played 13 special teams snaps with Marcus Allen inactive. Time will tell if Gilbert has surpassed Allen on the depth chart for good or just for now.
Question marks also follow Olasunkanmi Adeniyi after he played no snaps on defense while playing his usual share of special teams snaps. Alex Highsmith played 20% of defensive snaps for the first time of his career as he appears to have grabbed the Anthony Chickillo role of primary backup for both edge rushers.
Lastly, while James Pierre continues to keep his roster spot while playing the same snaps on special teams, Sean Davis fell to the lowest snaps counts of the special teams only crowd, and he still hasn’t seen the field on defense. You have to wonder if he isn’t fully healed from his injury.