While having great players who can move the ball down the field and sack quarterbacks and intercept passes is a wonderful thing, there is a line of conventional wisdom that still holds that games are ultimately won and lost in the trenches. At the very least, the play in the trenches enables the rest to function.
And if that is the case, then the Pittsburgh Steelers have to consider themselves rather fortunate, as they have among the best offensive and defensive lines in the NFL, especially when it comes to the passing game, which is the primary means by which the football is moved in today’s game.
The Steelers are one of actually three teams in the NFL who place in the top five back in terms of sacks allowed and in sacks recorded. Their 41 recorded sacks on defense ranks second in the NFL, while their 19 sacks allowed are the fourth-fewest.
The other two teams are, unsurprisingly, the Jacksonville Jaguars, who lead the NFL with 47 sacks, but have also only allowed 20 sacks. The other team is the Los Angeles Chargers, who have 37 sacks, fifth-most in the league, while only allowing 15 sacks, the fewest in the NFL by two.
In fact, they are one of just five teams to have recorded twice as many or more sacks than they have surrendered. As you can gather from the numbers above, the Jaguars and Chargers both qualify, as do the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints, though just barely.
The Falcons and Saints have both allowed 17 sacks this season and recorded 34, so they have exactly twice as many recorded sacks as sacks surrendered. Apart from these fives teams, no others can claim this. In fact, nearly have the league has given up more sacks than they have recorded.
Pittsburgh is the only team in the league to have 40 or more sacks while surrendering fewer than 20, as well. Considering the number of sacks that can be attributed to Ben Roethlisberger this season, the Steelers’ offensive line should really be commended. That includes Chris Hubbard in particular.
Defensively, the Steelers have had success getting pressure up the middle, with defensive end Cameron Heyward posting a career-high nine sacks. Inside linebacker Vince Williams’ seven sacks are also a career-high, and tied for the third-most by an inside linebacker in team history.
While the sacks production off the edges could be better, T.J. Watt’s six sacks for a rookie are the second-most in team history, and they have gotten the contributions from others when needed. The pressure has been more consistent than any in the past seven years.
Just to make this all that much more impressive, the Steelers have also thrown more passes than every other team in the league, meaning that they have had more opportunities to be sacked than anybody, and have also faced the second-fewest passes thrown against them, meaning that they have had fewer chances to record sacks than almost every other team.