During Sunday’s game, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pass rush duo of T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree eclipsed the 20-sack mark combined, in doing so becoming the first pair of edge defenders for the team to achieve that feat since James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley both did it—three consecutive seasons, from 2008 to 2010.
Their work off the edge helped send the Steelers to the Super Bowl twice during that span, winning one of them. Each of them put up over 30 total sacks individually during that period, and went to the Pro Bowl at least once. Harrison was even the Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.
Keith Butler was their position coach then. Now the defensive coordinator, he once again inherited the responsibility of coaching the outside linebackers in 2019, and both Watt and Dupree are having career years. That’s not to say their success should be attributed to him, but it does provide him with a unique insight into how they compare.
And he was asked to compare the two pass rush duos yesterday. It was a pretty simple comparison for him. “Those two guys went to a dadgum Super Bowl”, Butler said, via a transcript. “I’ve always told those guys we aren’t trying to get them to a dadgum Pro Bowl, we’re trying to get them to a Super Bowl. So, I’ll talk about it when we get to the Super Bowl, if they get us there. So, we’ll see”.
It would be a hell of a thing if they do make it to the Super Bowl. The last two times they were there, the Steelers were the number two seed and had the luxury of a bye week—and of homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, thanks to fortuitous losses by the number one seed in both years.
Unless Pittsburgh wins out and Baltimore loses out, the Steelers are going to have to go on the road, if they even make the playoffs, likely all the way, though they can still earn the fifth seed, and would then at least theoretically be able to host the sixth seed. I’m not quite sure if that has ever even happened.
The Steelers are on pace to record 57 sacks this season, which would set a new franchise record for the most in a single season. Watt has 12.5, while Dupree has 8.5. Cameron Heyward has also been a part of this journey, putting up seven sacks after having eight last year and 12 the year before.
Many things this defense has accomplished have been great. Their 30 takeaways are certainly not bad. But as always, they will ultimately be judged by the hardware they come out of the season with. At least in the mind of the man who coached the Steelers’ last great pass rush duo.