KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs weathered another offensive flurry in a 42-37 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, but the snap counts keep piling up for an overtaxed defense still missing a couple of key contributors.
"That's a concern, the number of snaps," head coach Andy Reid said during his Monday press conference.
The Chiefs defense has played 164 snaps through two games, the second-most in the league through the first two games. Only the Cincinnati Bengals defense with 167 snaps has played more. Coincidentally, both teams stand 2-0 at this point in the season, although the Bengals have allowed just 23 point per game compared to 32.5 for the Chiefs.
The Steelers rattled off 48 snaps in the first half and controlled the ball for 17 minutes and 54 seconds. But that measure improved dramatically in the second half with the Chiefs winning the time of possession with 15 minutes, 43 seconds thanks to a more methodical offense and some tweaks by defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.
"We did a couple of more things up front with some things and were able to get some pressure on them now," Reid said. "Again, too many penalties, but still there were some good things that took place and I was impressed by that, especially with the number of snaps."
Despite the heavy early workload, Reid felt his defense played strong in the second half and tightened up their coverage in the secondary.
"I thought one of the real positives, and I give credit to the guys, the players for this, that second half our guys did not get weaker on defense at all," Reid said.
Break down of snaps for Week 2 vs. the Steelers:
(Note: There appear some small discrepancies in the NFL GSIS snap count data, so there may be some minor corrections later).
OFFENSE (58 snaps)
Patrick Mahomes 58 (100 percent)
Kareem Hunt 40 (69 percent)
Anthony Sherman 13 (22 percent)
Damien Williams 9 (16 percent)
Spencer Ware 6 (10 percent)
Hunt had 19 touches in 40 snaps, continuing a trend from last season that when he's on the field, half time the time the ball comes his way on the ground or through the air. Ware's wildcat pass for a first-down was washed away by a defensive penalty, but it shows how creatively the Chiefs have worked Ware into the game with Hunt on the field at the same time. The Chiefs still haven't taken much advantage of Williams as a third-down weapon yet.
Travis Kelce 57 (98 percent)
Demetrius Harris 17 (29 percent)
Alex Ellis 1 (2 percent)
Harris played just 17 offensive snaps in his first week back after his suspension, but he also played a team-high 30 special teams snaps. He had two rough plays with a holding penalty on a punt return and a missed block on the safety. Kelce remains a work horse, having missed just one snap through the first two games of the season.
Tyreek Hill 51 (88 percent)
Sammy Watkins 48 (83 percent)
Chris Conley 36 (62 percent)
Demarcus Robinson 7 (12 percent)
De'Anthony Thomas 6 (10 percent)
The Chiefs went with their 11 personnel the majority of the game with Hill, Watkins and Conley. Robinson met the most of his seven snaps with his first regular-season touchdown catch. The Chiefs did go with an empty backfield on occasion but still opted for 11 personnel in some of those situations with Kelce and Hunt on split out. Watkins' big game on Sunday shows the depth and balance of this group.
Eric Fisher 58 (100 percent)
Cam Erving 58 (100 percent)
Mitch Morse 58 (100 percent)
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif 58 (100 percent)
Mitchell Schwartz 58 (100 percent)
The only surprise along the line is the Chiefs never deployed their heavy package with a sixth offensive lineman as a blocker. That look didn't work well last week against the Chargers, and this week the Chiefs opted for an additional tight end or Sherman in the backfield as a blocker in run situations.
Chris Jones 55 (67 percent)
Allen Bailey 51 (62 percent)
Xavier Williams 43 (40 percent)
Derrick Nnadi 19 (23 percent)
Jarvis Jenkins 18 (22 percent)
The Chiefs played a two-man front much of the day with the Steelers in pass-heavy mode, but Williams and Nnadi made some good contributions in those pass situations. Bailey didn't post great quarterback separation numbers but he did pick up the team's only sack and added a quarterback hit as well. Jones increasingly appears the focal point of concern for opposing defenses. The Steelers frequently target Jones to limit his impact, and eventually others along the line and the edge need to take advantage of the attention Jones draws away from them.
Justin Houston 70 (85 percent)
Dee Ford 65 (79 percent)
Breeland Speaks 20 (24 percent)
Tanoh Kpassagnon 11 (13 percent)
Ford got a slight breather after playing 73 snaps last week but Houston saw an increase in his work load. The Chiefs continuing working Speaks into the rotation and on occasion even deploy all three at once. Kpassagnon appears the relief edge rusher right now rather than a strategic piece of the puzzle. But the heavy workload for Houston and Ford early in the season remains a concern with their injury histories. Either the defense needs to get off the field or Speaks and Kpassagnon need to take some of the burden off them.
Anthony Hitchens 77 (94 percent)
Terrance Smith 43 (52 percent)
Reggie Ragland 25 (30 percent)
Dorian O'Daniel 1 (1 percent)
Ragland playing just 30 percent of the snaps after leaving the game with a stinger. But Ragland has seen less playing time than expected through the first two games of the season. He played 51 percent of the snaps against the Chargers with the Chiefs favoring the speedy Smith in the game during pass situations rather than Ragland. But that's also concerning since the Chiefs professed a belief in the offseason that Ragland can become a three-down player. He also remains on the team's injury report with the knee issue that limited him in camp, so maybe some of this stems from that. But the Chiefs envisioned a defense led by Hitchens and Ragland up the middle, and they're not quite getting it yet.
Steven Nelson 81 (99 percent)
Kendall Fuller 77 (94 percent)
Orland Scandrick 74 (90 percent)
Tremon Smith 5 (6 percent)
Scandrick's snap total tells you all you need to know about how much the Chiefs lived in the nickel defense against the Steelers. The Chiefs played the nickel sub package 90 percent of the time against the Steelers. Certainly the Steelers throwing the ball 60 times dictated that coverage, but the Chiefs increasingly feel comfortable in the nickel base and removing a linebacker instead when they want to present a three-man defensive front.
Ron Parker 81 (99 percent)
Eric Murray 79 (96 percent)
Armani Watts 16 (20 percent)
Jordan Lucas 1 (1 percent)
Watts saw a big jump in snaps after playing three defensive snaps in Week 1 against the Chargers. Certainly some of the is due to his increasing knowledge of the playbook but it also reflects the increase in dime coverages the secondary deployed against Roethlisberger. Lucas also saw his first defensive snap with the Chiefs. Murray is the workhorse of the defense, playing 84 snaps combined with special teams after playing 88 last week.
SPECIAL TEAMS (35 snaps)
Special teams only: Marcus Kemp 24 (69 percent), Harrison Butker 13 (37 percent), Dustin Colquitt 11 (31 percent), James Winchester 9 (26 percent), Jordan Devey 6 (17 percent) and Andrew Wylie 6 (17 percent)
Offensive players: Harris 30 (86 percent), Sherman 25 (71 percent), Thomas 24 (69 percent), Robinson 15 (43 percent), Damien Williams 13 (37 percent), Conley 7 (20 percent), Duvernay-Tardif 6 (17 percent), Morse 6 (17 percent), Fisher 6 (17 percent), Schwartz 6 (17 percent), Ware 6 (17 percent) Hill 5 (14 percent), Ellis 5 (14 percent)
Defensive players: Lucas 29 (83 percent), Watts 20 (57 percent), Kpassagnon 20 (57 percent), Terrance Smith 19 (54 percent), O'Daniel 19 (54 percent), Tremon Smith 14 (40 percent), Murray 5 (14 percent), Fuller 5 (14 percent), Hitchens 5 (14 percent), Jones 5 (14 percent), Bailey 5 (14 percent), Speaks 5 (14 percent), Nnadi 5 (14 percent), Scandrick 4 (11 percent) and Parker 1 (3 percent)
Harris had a team-high 30 special teams snaps, illustrating his importance to all four phases of the group. Lucas followed behind with 29. That alone explains why the Chiefs acquired him from the Dolphins in favor of Leon McQuay, who doesn't yet have the special teams savvy of Lucas. Terrance Smith played 62 total snaps between teams and defense.Watts, O'Daniel and Tremon Smith continue seeing increasing playing time on special teams units as rookies.