The Pittsburgh Steelers mustered just one sack on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, on which T.J. Watt split half the credit. They came into the game with 48 sacks, leaving them now with 49, and with two games to play, they are virtually assured to reach 50 sacks for the third consecutive season.
Their 49 sacks is tied for the most in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers, meaning they are on pace to lead or share the lead in sacks by season’s end. That would mark the third consecutive season in which they have done that, after sharing the honor last season with the Kansas City Chiefs at 52 sacks, and then wielding it outright in 2017 with a franchise-record 56.
“It means something to me if we win”, said defensive coordinator Keith Butler about possibly becoming the first defense in NFL history to lead the league in sacks for three consecutive seasons. They have already amassed 158 sacks during that span. “Otherwise, it’s comfort food. You have to win to get into the playoffs”.
Butler’s defense has been carrying the Steelers through the majority of the 2019 season since Ben Roethlisberger went down with a season-ending elbow injury in Week Two. They not only share the lead in sacks, their 35 takeaways are also just one behind the New England Patriots for the NFL lead. If they manage to tie or overtake New England in that category, they can also become just the second team in the common draft era to lead in both sacks and takeaways in a single season.
“The only thing that is satisfying really is if you get into the playoffs and you do all the things you are talking about three years in a row and stuff like that”, Butler continued. “Then that becomes meaningful. It doesn’t become meaningful until we get into the playoffs and so we have to do what we have to do to get into the playoffs and I will feel good about the sacks for three years”.
Watt has been the biggest contributor of sacks during that span, posting 33 sacks, including 13 in each of the past two seasons. He is the first player in team history to record 13 sacks or more in multiple seasons, though Kevin Greene came half a sack shy of doing that in his three season in the ‘Burgh.
Cameron Heyward would be next up, contributing 28 sacks over the past three years, including at least eight in each year. Just imagine if he was a ‘sack guy’. Bud Dupree is third on the list with 21 sacks, including a career-best nine and a half in 2019, second-most on the team. Vince Williams, Javon Hargrave, and Stephon Tuitt round out the contributors who have recorded at least 10 sacks over the past three seasons.