The Pittsburgh Steelers have the potential to become just the second team in the common era of the game to lead the league in both sacks and turnovers. The only other team to have done it before was the 1974 Steelers team, their first of six Super Bowl-winning efforts.
With three games remaining, they are up to 48 sacks on the season. They are almost sure to reach 50 for the third consecutive season, and have a shot at setting a new franchise record. They would need to average three sacks per game in order to do so.
They also have 33 takeaways after getting three interceptions last week, the most in the league after the New England Patriots had been leading in that category all season. But while the Patriots defense may be taking a step back from their admittedly vaunted position, the Steelers are heading into the postseason playing their best football on defense.
Naturally, that lends itself to questions about how good this defense is, where it ranks relative to others. On The Mike Tomlin Show last night, Bob Pompeani asked head coach Mike Tomlin just that sort of question, about where this unit fits in with those that he has been a part of in the past.
“Those stories are written and told in December and January. In particular January, because I haven’t been part of a great defense that doesn’t participate in January football”, he said. “We’re doing the things to put ourselves in that conversation, obviously. We’ve got a big challenge this week in Buffalo. They’ll be continually writing the answer to that question over the next couple of weeks and beyond, hopefully”.
For as good as they have been playing, defensively, there is no room for a let up, because this team is still relying about the defense to carry them. They simply don’t have the firepower on offense to keep themselves even with most of the offenses that they will encounter in the postseason, provided that they get there, so it will have to be up to the defense to pick up the slack.
Devlin Hodges has done a nice job since taking over the starting quarterback position, but his growth over the course of the next three games will tell the tale of who this team will be once the second season arrives. Will they be able to move the ball and put up points on offense against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Houston Texans, and the Baltimore Ravens, provided that they are fortunate enough to even have those opportunities?