I haven’t exactly run the numbers or did a thorough diagnostic, but I’m under the impression that sacks all across the league have been down this year. The Cardinals and Panthers had the most sacks this season, and they neither had 50. They were the only two teams to finish the year with more than 42 sacks.
In fact, the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to crack the top 10 of the end-of-year sack leaders list with 38 sacks, 25 of which came over the course of their final seven games. That was the most by any team over that span of time, and coincided with a renewed emphasis on blitzing—though they also played the Browns twice.
Amazingly, if you look at that top 10 list, it is not really all that impressive. The top three teams on the list all missed the playoffs, including the Broncos tied at number three. The Seahawks, sharing 42 sacks with them, would have to be the most impressive team on the list.
Of the top 12 defenses in terms of accumulating sacks during the 2016 season, incredibly, only three of them managed to make the playoffs, those being the Steelers at nine, the Seahawks at three, and the Packers at six. The Vikings, Titans, Bills, Buccaneers, and Redskins round out the top 12.
Thus, of the 12 teams that made the postseason this time around, the Steelers finished the year with the third-most sacks. If you want to use sack totals as the barometer for pass-rushing success, then, you can make the argument that they are in fine shape relative to the rest of the field. Of course, taking into consideration only sack totals to gain a view of total pass-rushing success would be ill-advised. It is at best used as a very loose guide.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Raiders finished last in the league with just 25 sacks on the season. Of course, they also gave up the fewest, but the Steelers gave up among the fewest sacks in the league as well, and four of their 21 total came in the final meaningless game with backups.
The Lions, another playoff team, only did the Raiders one better with 26 sacks, while the Chiefs—whom the Steelers would face in the Divisional Round—recorded only 28 sacks on the year. Speaking of the Dolphins, they ranked 19th in the league with 33 sacks on the season, just greater than two per game.
Rounding out the playoff crowd, we have the Texans at 24 with 31 sacks, the Patriots and Falcons tied at 16 with 34, and the Cowboys and Giants coming in at 13 and 14 with 36 and 35 sacks, respectively.
I don’t exactly anticipate that Ben Roethlisberger will be spending his playoff run running for his life, in other words. Not only is this year’s class, from a pass-rushing perspective, relatively underpowered, the Steeler’ offensive line has been among the best in the game in pass protection, with a couple of Pro Bowlers along the interior. Opposing quarterbacks should be more worried, according to the numbers. The defense, with their seven-game pace, would have recorded 57 sacks this year, by the way.