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Chiefs-Steelers snap counts: McKinnon takes over; some defenders rest

How did Kansas City use its players in Sunday’s playoff game against Pittsburgh?

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Pittsburgh Steelers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs opened their postseason campaign with a Wild Card game on Sunday night, turning in a convincing 42-21 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers to advance to the Divisional round of the playoffs against the Buffalo Bills this Sunday night.

Let’s take a look at how the Chiefs use their players in their first Round 1 playoff game since 2017.


Starters (offensive): WR Tyreek Hill, TE Travis Kelce, LT Orlando Brown Jr., LG Joe Thuney, C Creed Humphrey, RG Trey Smith, RT Andrew Wylie, WR Mecole Hardman, WR Byron Pringle, QB Patrick Mahomes and RB Jerick McKinnon.

Starters (defensive): LDE Frank Clark, LDT Jarran Reed, RDT Chris Jones, RDE Melvin Ingram, LB Willie Gay Jr., LB Anthony Hitchens, LCB Mike Hughes, S Juan Thornhill, S Tyrann Mathieu, RCB Charvarius Ward and CB L’Jarius Sneed.

Did not play: QB Chad Henne, OL Austin Blythe and OL Kyle Long.

Inactive: QB Shane Buechele, WR Josh Gordon, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, CB Rashad Fenton, RB Darwin Thompson, DE Joshua Kaindoh and T Prince Tega Wanogho.


Offensive takeaways


The offensive line looks like it set for the playoffs. Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., left guard Joe Thuney, center Creed Humphrey, right guard Trey Smith and right tackle Andrew Wylie all played every offensive snap to open the playoffs. As we have continued to see in recent games, reserve interior lineman Nick Allegretti got a few snaps as a sixth offensive lineman. When he has done so, he has often reported as an eligible receiver — and on Sunday, we saw that effort pay off with a touchdown reception for the third-year player.

Once again, Travis Kelce, Blake Bell and Noah Gray fell into their usual roles: Kelce as the go-to guy, Bell getting an emphasis in running snaps and Gray filling in for the All-Pro tight end. All saw use in their normal ranges.

At running back — where Cylde Edwards-Helaire was still out with his shoulder injury — the Chiefs hoped that Darrel Williams would be able to contribute after struggling all week with a toe injury. But after a small number of snaps, Williams was pulled in favor of Jerick McKinnon — who essentially took over the position; Derrick Gore had only a handful of snaps.

There had been concern that wide receiver Tyreek Hill’s use would be limited — especially when practice-squad wideout Daurice Fountain was elevated for the game. But Hill’s usage was in his normal range — albeit on the low side. Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson went back to sharing WR2 snaps. And Fountain — whose elevation came in the same week where Josh Gordon was declared inactive — ended up being used almost exclusively on special teams.


Defensive takeaways


In the secondary, safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill — along with cornerbacks L’Jarius Sneed and Charvarius Ward — fulfilled their usual roles: being on the field for virtually every defensive snap. In this game, however, Mathieu and Ward came out for the final Pittsburgh drive, where they were replaced by safety Armani Watts and corner Deandre Baker. Even rookie Zayne Anderson got in for a handful of snaps at free safety.

With Rashad Fenton unexpectedly out of the game, Mike Hughes got the snaps across from Ward on the outside, while Sneed continued to be used primarily in the slot. Safety Daniel Sorensen’s usage was up a bit from a low point in the regular-season finale — but was still within his typical range during recent games.

At the second level, Anthony Hitchens also got some time off during the final drive. Nick Bolton took up most of the slack. But against the Steelers, the Chiefs chose to depend less on linebackers than they have in recent games, averaging just 1.68 on the field for each snap — the lowest figure since Week 14 against the Las Vegas Raiders. That appears to have had the greatest impact on the snaps of Willie Gay Jr., who had his lowest use of the season. Ben Niemann — despite seeing more snaps during the final Steelers drive — stayed in his normal range, suggesting that his overall use was also down.

On the defensive line, Chris Jones, Frank Clark, Melvin Ingram and Jarran Reed also missed the final drive. In addition, head coach Andy Reid said that Jones missed some time after his helmet came down on his eye socket during the game. According to Pro Football Focus data, Jones spent well more than half of his game time playing on the inside of the line. All of this added up to increased usage for the rotational defensive linemen.


Data


Offense

Offense All Pass Run
Total 65
(100%)
43
(100%)
22
(100%)
Orlando Brown Jr. 65
(100%)
43
(100%)
22
(100%)
Creed Humphrey 65
(100%)
43
(100%)
22
(100%)
Patrick Mahomes 65
(100%)
43
(100%)
22
(100%)
Trey Smith 65
(100%)
43
(100%)
22
(100%)
Joe Thuney 65
(100%)
43
(100%)
22
(100%)
Andrew Wylie 65
(100%)
43
(100%)
22
(100%)
Jerick McKinnon 51
(78%)
36
(84%)
15
(68%)
Tyreek Hill 50
(77%)
32
(74%)
18
(82%)
Travis Kelce 49
(75%)
34
(79%)
15
(68%)
Mecole Hardman 37
(57%)
22
(51%)
15
(68%)
Byron Pringle 37
(57%)
27
(63%)
10
(45%)
Demarcus Robinson 33
(51%)
27
(63%)
6
(27%)
Blake Bell 20
(31%)
8
(19%)
12
(55%)
Noah Gray 17
(26%)
11
(26%)
6
(27%)
Darrel Williams 8
(12%)
6
(14%)
2
(9%)
Michael Burton 7
(11%)
4
(9%)
3
(14%)
Derrick Gore 6
(9%)
1
(2%)
5
(23%)
Marcus Kemp 5
(8%)
4
(9%)
1
(5%)
Daurice Fountain 3
(5%)
2
(5%)
1
(5%)
Nick Allegretti 2
(3%)
1
(2%)
1
(5%)

Defense

Defense All Pass Run
Total 66
(100%)
46
(100%)
20
(100%)
Juan Thornhill 65
(98%)
45
(98%)
20
(100%)
L'Jarius Sneed 60
(91%)
41
(89%)
19
(95%)
Mike Hughes 57
(86%)
41
(89%)
16
(80%)
Tyrann Mathieu 53
(80%)
35
(76%)
18
(90%)
Charvarius Ward 52
(79%)
35
(76%)
17
(85%)
Frank Clark 40
(61%)
28
(61%)
12
(60%)
Tershawn Wharton 39
(59%)
30
(65%)
9
(45%)
Nick Bolton 37
(56%)
25
(54%)
12
(60%)
Melvin Ingram 36
(55%)
24
(52%)
12
(60%)
Daniel Sorensen 34
(52%)
27
(59%)
7
(35%)
Chris Jones 33
(50%)
21
(46%)
12
(60%)
Jarran Reed 33
(50%)
21
(46%)
12
(60%)
Alex Okafor 30
(45%)
22
(48%)
8
(40%)
Anthony Hitchens 29
(44%)
18
(39%)
11
(55%)
Michael Danna 27
(41%)
19
(41%)
8
(40%)
Derrick Nnadi 26
(39%)
19
(41%)
7
(35%)
Ben Niemann 22
(33%)
17
(37%)
5
(25%)
Deandre Baker 17
(26%)
13
(28%)
4
(20%)
Willie Gay Jr. 17
(26%)
9
(20%)
8
(40%)
Armani Watts 13
(20%)
11
(24%)
2
(10%)
Zayne Anderson 6
(9%)
5
(11%)
1
(5%)

Special Teams

Special Teams Snaps
Total 31
(100%)
Noah Gray 28
(90%)
Marcus Kemp 25
(81%)
Ben Niemann 25
(81%)
Dorian O'Daniel 25
(81%)
Armani Watts 25
(81%)
Zayne Anderson 20
(65%)
Daniel Sorensen 18
(58%)
Daurice Fountain 18
(58%)
Michael Burton 15
(48%)
Deandre Baker 13
(42%)
Harrison Butker 13
(42%)
Blake Bell 10
(32%)
Tommy Townsend 10
(32%)
James Winchester 10
(32%)
Derrick Gore 8
(26%)
Nick Allegretti 6
(19%)
Orlando Brown Jr. 6
(19%)
Creed Humphrey 6
(19%)
Trey Smith 6
(19%)
Joe Thuney 6
(19%)
Andrew Wylie 6
(19%)
Nick Bolton 5
(16%)
Mecole Hardman 5
(16%)
L'Jarius Sneed 5
(16%)
Byron Pringle 4
(13%)
Michael Danna 3
(10%)
Mike Hughes 3
(10%)
Derrick Nnadi 3
(10%)
Alex Okafor 3
(10%)
Tershawn Wharton 3
(10%)
Anthony Hitchens 2
(6%)
Jerick McKinnon 2
(6%)
Charvarius Ward 2
(6%)
Tyreek Hill 1
(3%)
Demarcus Robinson 1
(3%)

All Snaps

All Snaps Off Def ST Total
Total 65
(100%)
66
(100%)
31
(100%)
162
(100%)
Nick Allegretti 2
(3%)
0
(0%)
6
(19%)
8
(5%)
Zayne Anderson 0
(0%)
6
(9%)
20
(65%)
26
(16%)
Deandre Baker 0
(0%)
17
(26%)
13
(42%)
30
(19%)
Blake Bell 20
(31%)
0
(0%)
10
(32%)
30
(19%)
Nick Bolton 0
(0%)
37
(56%)
5
(16%)
42
(26%)
Orlando Brown Jr. 65
(100%)
0
(0%)
6
(19%)
71
(44%)
Michael Burton 7
(11%)
0
(0%)
15
(48%)
22
(14%)
Harrison Butker 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
13
(42%)
13
(8%)
Frank Clark 0
(0%)
40
(61%)
0
(0%)
40
(25%)
Michael Danna 0
(0%)
27
(41%)
3
(10%)
30
(19%)
Willie Gay Jr. 0
(0%)
17
(26%)
0
(0%)
17
(10%)
Derrick Gore 6
(9%)
0
(0%)
8
(26%)
14
(9%)
Noah Gray 17
(26%)
0
(0%)
28
(90%)
45
(28%)
Mecole Hardman 37
(57%)
0
(0%)
5
(16%)
42
(26%)
Tyreek Hill 50
(77%)
0
(0%)
1
(3%)
51
(31%)
Anthony Hitchens 0
(0%)
29
(44%)
2
(6%)
31
(19%)
Mike Hughes 0
(0%)
57
(86%)
3
(10%)
60
(37%)
Creed Humphrey 65
(100%)
0
(0%)
6
(19%)
71
(44%)
Melvin Ingram 0
(0%)
36
(55%)
0
(0%)
36
(22%)
Chris Jones 0
(0%)
33
(50%)
0
(0%)
33
(20%)
Travis Kelce 49
(75%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
49
(30%)
Marcus Kemp 5
(8%)
0
(0%)
25
(81%)
30
(19%)
Patrick Mahomes 65
(100%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
65
(40%)
Tyrann Mathieu 0
(0%)
53
(80%)
0
(0%)
53
(33%)
Jerick McKinnon 51
(78%)
0
(0%)
2
(6%)
53
(33%)
Ben Niemann 0
(0%)
22
(33%)
25
(81%)
47
(29%)
Derrick Nnadi 0
(0%)
26
(39%)
3
(10%)
29
(18%)
Dorian O'Daniel 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
25
(81%)
25
(15%)
Alex Okafor 0
(0%)
30
(45%)
3
(10%)
33
(20%)
Byron Pringle 37
(57%)
0
(0%)
4
(13%)
41
(25%)
Jarran Reed 0
(0%)
33
(50%)
0
(0%)
33
(20%)
Demarcus Robinson 33
(51%)
0
(0%)
1
(3%)
34
(21%)
Trey Smith 65
(100%)
0
(0%)
6
(19%)
71
(44%)
L'Jarius Sneed 0
(0%)
60
(91%)
5
(16%)
65
(40%)
Daniel Sorensen 0
(0%)
34
(52%)
18
(58%)
52
(32%)
Juan Thornhill 0
(0%)
65
(98%)
0
(0%)
65
(40%)
Joe Thuney 65
(100%)
0
(0%)
6
(19%)
71
(44%)
Tommy Townsend 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
10
(32%)
10
(6%)
Charvarius Ward 0
(0%)
52
(79%)
2
(6%)
54
(33%)
Armani Watts 0
(0%)
13
(20%)
25
(81%)
38
(23%)
Tershawn Wharton 0
(0%)
39
(59%)
3
(10%)
42
(26%)
Darrel Williams 8
(12%)
0
(0%)
0
(0%)
8
(5%)
James Winchester 0
(0%)
0
(0%)
10
(32%)
10
(6%)
Andrew Wylie 65
(100%)
0
(0%)
6
(19%)
71
(44%)
Daurice Fountain 3
(5%)
0
(0%)
18
(58%)
21
(13%)

Editor’s Note: Arrowhead Pride obtains snap count data from the NFL’s game stats and information system, which allows us to break out snap counts by run or pass on offensive and defensive plays. Because GSIS data ignores plays that were nullified by penalties, total offensive and defensive snap counts will vary from other sources, which get their data from NFL Gamebooks