While, in the end, it wasn’t enough for a Pittsburgh Steelers team that was entirely hamstrung on offense, what the defense was able to achieve this season should certainly not be taken away from them. They turned in the best performance by a Steelers defense in many a year, certainly showing to be championship-worthy—perhaps aside from yesterday evening, anyway.
Yet despite Gus Edwards running all over them, the Steelers defense still held the Baltimore Ravens offense to 19 points. The offense and special teams were responsible for 9 of the 28 points that they ultimately scored. The team went 0-3 in the final three weeks while holding their opponents’ offense to below 20 in each game.
And they were able to keep scores down because they were able to make plays. A lot of them, in fact. They finished the season with 54 sacks, their third consecutive season with 50 or more sacks, something only a few teams have ever done before. It’s also the third consecutive season in which they led the league in sacks, officially finishing one ahead of the Carolina Panthers.
This season, they also finished with 38 takeaways, well more than double the 15 takeaways that they managed in 2018. With two yesterday—a Joe Haden fumble recovery and interception—they overtook the New England Patriots to lead in that category.
Thus, they technically became the first team in NFL history to ever lead in both sacks and takeaways in the same season. The 1974 Steelers also achieved that feat, but that was before sacks were recognized as an official statistic.
Unfortunately, the 2019 Steelers managed a very different result from their 45-year-old counterparts. That season marked Pittsburgh’s first Super Bowl title. This season marks their second consecutive season without a postseason appearance. But their meager offense and special teams miscues were lethal too often.
Leading the way for the defense was T.J. Watt, who finished the season with 14.5 sacks, two interceptions, eight forced fumbles, and four recoveries. Devin Bush also had two interceptions, a forced fumble, and four recoveries. Bud Dupree finished with 11.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and two recoveries, while Minkah Fitzpatrick had five interceptions, a forced fumble, and two recoveries. Haden also finished the season with five interceptions, one forced fumble, and one recovery.
It’s actually quite a shame that the Steelers had to ‘waste’ all of these stellar defensive performances on an 8-8 season with no playoff berth to show for it—nor a first-round pick to make up for it. One can only hope that they can carry this sort of success over into the 2020 season, otherwise it will have been all for naught.