The Pittsburgh Steelers finally let Javon Hargrave have consistent opportunities to rush the quarterback. And he didn’t disappoint. He turned in his best season as a pro, finishing 2018 with 6.5 sacks, third on the team and more than doubling what he accomplished his first two years.
Sitting down with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews, Hargrave pointed to that opportunity as the reason for a breakdown campaign.
“I think I had the same role but I got a lot more opportunities than I did in the past,” Tuitt said in the interview. “I just took advantage of some of those opportunities and did big things with it.”
His pressures were actually down from 2017 but crucially, he showed the ability to finish plays and get the QB to the ground. His run defense also improved while effort remained at the same high level it’s been since his rookie year.
“I think it was some things that I showed,” Tuitt told Matthews. “Just due to some injuries too. My boy Tuitt going down, it opened up some opportunities for me in that timespan and I showed what I could do.”
Tuitt missed two weeks following the Carolina Panthers game due to an elbow injury, giving Hargrave the majority of snaps in sub-packages. He didn’t disappoint, posting the first mutli-sack game of his career with a pair in a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He followed that up with a half-sack versus Denver and another takedown against Oakland.
If the Steelers are going to play more 3-3-5 in 2019, Hargrave’s playtime will spike all the more. It’s the best way to utilize the Steelers’ greatest defensive asset, its strong defensive line, without subjecting Hargrave to “clean up” snaps when Cam Heyward or Tuitt need a breather. If so, it’s not out of the realm of possibility, lofty a goal as it is, for Hargrave to surpass his 2018 sack total.