Last week, we showed the impact Javon Hargrave made against the run. Six total tackles, showing the ability to find the ball, work off blocks, and finish plays. This week had a similar impact, just in a different element of the game. He showed his ability to make an impact as a pass rusher, notching the first two sack game of his career, the first by a Steelers’ nose tackle in 20 years.
“Just a relief,” he told Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews. “I play nose so I don’t go into games thinking about sacks. Just to get that is a big relief and a pretty good game for me.”
His first sack came in a critical moment, dropping Blake Bortles for a five yard loss on 3rd and 9 at the Steelers’ 20. That forced the Jaguars to settle for their third field goal. That was the theme for this defense and it made all the difference. Allow field goals, don’t yield touchdowns, and make the comeback possible.
Hargrave didn’t have to wait long for pick up his second.
After Ben Roethlisberger threw a pick on the first play following that field goal, Hargrave dusted the backup right guard to take Bortles down again. It created a 3rd and 18 and ultimately, a Jacksonville punt. Another critical three and out and one of the biggest stands by the defense on a day where there were several of them.
“I think that was my first time having two in the league. It’s a good day for me.”
Pittsburgh had a great gameplan to compensate for the loss of Stephon Tuitt. While Hargrave technically earned the start, playing the first snap in their base 3-4 defense, Daniel McCullers was primarily the man in the middle. Hargrave was kept fresh to rush in sub-packages, in nickel and dime for obvious pass situations. Clearly, the next best option with Tuitt unavailable. Tyson Alualu, L.T. Walton, and McCullers are all below average pass rushers. Hargrave provides a lot more juice and he’s shown the ability to turn pressures into sacks.
Despite relative limited opportunity, his five sacks on the season now rank third on the Steelers and tied for the most by any nose tackle in the NFL. He’ll have a good chance to increase those numbers on Sunday facing a Denver Broncos team with a depleted offensive line. Right guard Elijah Wilkinson made his first career start yesterday while the team has lost center Matt Paradis and left guard Max Garcia over the last three weeks.