If it is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ goal to tie or break their own franchise record in sacks recorded during a single season, then they could have not asked for a more opportune opponent than the Cleveland Browns.
Entering the 2017 regular season finale with 50 sacks on the season, the Steelers this year are just five sacks behind their all-time franchise record of 55, which is a figure that they have achieved twice in their history.
This year could be the third time that they record at least that many, and there is a fair chance that they can exceed the total as well. Over the course of the past eight seasons, the Steelers have recorded at least five sacks in a single game during the regular season 17 times. Six of those games have come against the Browns.
Just last season, for example, the Steelers recorded eight sacks in their first game against the Browns, and then seven sacks against Cleveland in the season opener of this season, on the road. Five of the nine games since 2010 in which they have recorded more than five sacks have been at the expense of their Ohio neighbor.
It would be fair to point out that the team has only recorded at least five sacks in a game on three occasions this year, so it has not necessarily been the norm for them to put up these numbers. As recently as the 2015 season, they recorded at least five sacks in five games during that year, though this season trails only that in the assigned time period as the most frequent.
It certainly won’t help them rack up the sacks, however, if the Steelers choose to rest Cameron Heyward, their Pro-Bowl-snubbed defensive end who leads the team in sacks with 12. Only one other time in team history has a player who is not an outside linebacker recorded more than 12 sacks.
One tempting aspect of this game is the absence of Joe Thomas. The Steelers have not faced the Browns for even a single snap without Thomas since 2006, because he had not missed one snap since being drafted that year until he suffered a season-ending injury earlier this season.
Regardless of how many sacks the Steelers might record in today’s game, of course, the bottom line is that the team has had more success rushing the passer in this campaign than in any other since their last trip to the Super Bowl in 2010. They already have more than the 48 sacks that got them into the title game that season.
While the sack numbers are naturally encouraging, the more encouraging aspect of the Steelers’ pass rush is the fact that it has more consistently provided pressure on the quarterback. Pittsburgh has actually been one of the most successful teams in the league this season in forcing quarterbacks to throw under duress.