The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree will combine for 4+ sacks against the Giants’ offensive line.
Explanation: The Giants are starting a rookie, albeit a top-five pick, at left tackle in a year with no preseason. At right tackle is Cameron Fleming, a career backup, albeit with 26 starts over six years. Dupree and Watt combined for 26 sacks a year ago.
Four sacks between two players is admittedly a high mark to hit, but it’s doable, especially under the circumstances. Watt alone has multiple three-sack games, and it’s certainly possible he can get three against Fleming. Dupree has some multiple-sack games under his belt as well, and he gets to go against a rookie who has literally never faced an opponent at the professional level before.
As good as the pair was last year, they should only be better this year, and Daniel Jones as a quarterback is also vulnerable. He took 38 sacks last season in 12 starts. That’s an average of more than three sacks taken per start, and he was sacked at least four times in half of those starts.
The Giants’ left tackle was supposed to be Nate Solder, a well-established veteran. He chose to opt out of the season. Their offensive line is weak, and out of practice. The defensive front will have an advantage in the early stages of the season over the offensive line.
While the table is set admittedly for the Steelers’ edge-rushing duo to have a strong game, four sacks is always a high bar to clear. The Steelers have never even averaged four sacks per game in a season, which means that they regularly finish games without that number as an entire team.
Only once have Watt and Dupree combined for four sacks in a single game, and that was in Watt’s first three-sack game in the 2018 opener against the Browns, with Dupree chipping in one. They also combined for three and a half against the Indianapolis Colts last year. But this just helps to illustrate how difficult it is to do—especially for a team that employs a pass rush that comes from many different angles using any number of pieces.