Seven-Sack Showing Has Steelers’ Pass Rush Off To Promising Start

Last year, it took the Pittsburgh Steelers something like five games into the season in order to reach a season-to-date sack total of seven. But that is the number of sacks that they left back to Pittsburgh with yesterday after bringing down Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer repeatedly.

To be fair, a lot of the credit does go to Kizer himself, who really did a great job of helping to enable those sacks by holding onto the football for too long on multiple occasions, and even running into one or two of them, though it should also be noted that he probably managed to escape one or two of them thanks to his mobility.

While Cleveland went three-and-out on its first drive, they put up slightly more of a fight on their second series, managing to convert a third and long. But a sack from Anthony Chickillo on first down and another by Cameron Heyward on third down sealed the deal and landed the Browns into a fourth and 20.

Those were the only two sacks until the final play of the first half, when former Brown Joe Haden came in on a cornerback blitz to finish off the half and send both teams into the locker room, with the Steelers lined up to receive the ball at the top of the third quarter.

But then the sacks started mounting, and it began with T.J. Watt, the rookie first-round pick, notching the first sack of his career on second and eight with the Browns right on the Steelers’ own nine-yard line. With pressure coming from the left side of the defense, the outside linebacker was able to spin back inside as Kizer was flushed in his direction and brought the rookie down.

It was Watt again early on the next drive to record his second sack in a span of four plays, this time coming on a second and 15. This one was part coverage and part poor decision by the quarterback to hold on to the ball, admittedly, but he displayed excellent hustle and good closing speed to eventually finish this play.

Later on the drive, Chickillo managed to notch his second as well, another of the clean-up variety, after which Watt was flagged for a late hit. But he made up for it by recording an interception on the next play, so there is that.

The final sack of the night came for one of the hardest-working players on the field that day, nose tackle Javon Hargrave, who bullied free agent acquisition J.C. Tretter with a straight bull rush up the gut, managing to finish off the play for a loss of nine. This was not his only pressure of the game, either.

Now, while it was quite nice to see the Steelers notch seven sacks in a game, it did come against a rookie quarterback for the Browns. It is not going to come so easily in the future against more stable lines and more experienced quarterbacks. But it was good to see four sacks come from the outside linebacker position.

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