Porter indeed did start, and not only that played nearly the entire game, shadowing top Titans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. It was generally assumed that Porter would be taking a starting role from one of the team’s two outside cornerbacks — Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace — and while that’s where Porter played, that isn’t exactly the way it played out.
Porter played 70 snaps, with Pro Football Focus categorizing 58 of them as outside corner reps. Wallace did not start for just the second time this season, but still played 38 snaps, with 37 of them coming at outside corner. Wallace was returning from a foot injury and had been limited in practice leading up to the game, so it’s possible that he might have played even more.
Peterson played 74 snaps, tied for the most on the defense. How? By moving around. He only played 29 snaps of outside corner, 18 as a free safety, 15 as a slot corner and 11 as a box defender. By moving Peterson around, the Steelers were able to replicate a near-full-time role for Porter and Wallace outside.
So the real player who saw a reduction in workload with Porter’s promotion was slot cornerback Chandon Sullivan. He played just 16 snaps, his second-lowest total of the season. That happened even as the Steelers scrapped their three-safety Dime package without Minkah Fitzpatrick and went to a more traditional four-cornerback look. The fourth cornerback on the field in the Dime was rookie Darius Rush, and not Sullivan. Rush played 30 snaps, with all but one lined up on the inside.
So it appears that with the Steelers promoting Porter to a full-time role, and dealing with replacing Fitzpatrick at safety, it was actually Sullivan that lost out on the most potential playing time.
BENTON PICKS UP THE SLACK
With defensive captain Cam Heyward returning to action on Thursday, it looked like it might be a quiet night for Steelers rookie nose tackle Keeanu Benton. Benton had been one of the largest recipients of the extra snaps available thanks to Heyward’s absence for core muscle surgery, and the rookie had acquitted himself nicely in that timeframe.
But starting nose tackle Montravius Adams has also played well, and it seemed that the best Benton could hope for going forward was a time share with the veteran and the fourth spot in the rotation for playing time in two-man defensive line fronts.
That changed after two defensive snaps, as Adams suffered a right ankle injury that kept him out of the rest of the game. Benton ended up playing 48 snaps, more than all but Larry Ogunjobi (50), and even out-snapping Heyward (41). He played 15 snaps of nose tackle, 30 snaps as a defensive tackle in sub-package sets and two at defensive end, according to PFF.
It’s not clear if Adams will be able to return this week, but it is clear that the Steelers trust their rookie defensive lineman to make plays.
STEELERS OFFENSIVE SNAP COUNTS
|WR||Calvin Austin III||35||41||45||53||37||7||18||17|
|TE||Rodney Williams II||—||—||—||—||4||11||12||3|
STEELERS DEFENSIVE SNAP COUNTS