2019 South Side Questions: Will Defense Lead League In Sacks And/Or Takeaways?

T.J. Watt

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.

The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.

How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph, and now Devlin Hodges? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Will the Steelers defense finish first in the league in sacks and/or turnovers?

Entering the season finale against the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers have 51 sacks, their third consecutive season with 50 or more. That places them one behind the Carolina Panthers for the current league lead. They are tied with the New England Patriots in takeaways with 36 after recording one forced fumble recovered against the New York Jets.

According to Elias, only one team in the Super Bowl era has ever led the league in both takeaways and sacks in the same season—and that was several years before sacks were acknowledged as an official statistic. So unofficially, the 1974 Steelers team is the only one to have ever accomplished that.

If they can remain at least even with the Patriots in takeaways and record one more sack than the Panthers on Sunday, then they can finish at least tied for first in both categories, thereby becoming the first team in 45 years to lead the league in both key statistical defensive categories.

That year in 1974, Joe Greene was the Defensive Player of the Year, and Jack Lambert was the Defensive Rookie of the Year. I don’t see Devin Bush getting Defensive Rookie of the Year at this point, but T.J. Watt has a good shot at Defensive Player of the Year, and he can strengthen his case by adding another sack or two and a takeaway against the Ravens.

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