Although the Ravens and Chiefs still have yet to play, they would need nine sacks to tie and 10 sacks to surpass the Pittsburgh Steelers for the current league lead in sacks through the first three games of the season. Baltimore and Kansas City each have six through two games. The Steelers have 15 through three games, one of only five teams with double-digit sacks. The Washington Football Team is second with 13.
Why so many? Part of it is because it is the brand of defense that the Steelers play. They stop the run to make teams one-dimensional and get after the passer. It’s also the personality of the unit. And simply having guys that love hitting quarterbacks, like Vince Williams.
The eighth-year inside linebacker is one of already nine different Steelers who have contributed to their 15 sacks so far on the season, with T.J. Watt leading the way at 3.5. Bud Dupree is behind him at 2.5. Three players also have two sacks apiece—including cornerback Mike Hilton, and Williams.
He told reporters earlier today that he is the one in meetings who is always asking defensive coordinator Keith Butler to allow him to blitz, and “it’s a two-part reason”, he said, according to Teresa Varley. “Getting sacks are amazing. I like it. The most important person on the field, like in chess when you take someone’s queen off the board, so I like that. I like beating up on quarterbacks”.
I’m not really sure if he has a special interest in beating up on quarterbacks, though, because he really seems to appreciate the opportunity to beat up on anybody. Running backs haven’t exactly been spared from his wrath, even or perhaps especially in pass protection, for example. nevertheless, he clearly relishes the chance to get anybody with the ball down on the ground. But it’s not all about himself.
“It adds such diversity to your defense” to be able to have off-ball players capable of generating pressure, he said. “When you have guys that are tremendous edge rushers that can get pressure, and you have tremendous guys on the inside that can get pressure, like Tuitt and Cameron Heyward, and you have nickel guys like Mike Hilton, me throwing my name into that ring. I want to be able to add that dimension to my game and get after the quarterback as well. That adds another weapon we can use and to make sure we don’t stay so vanilla in our blitz packages”.
Over the past four seasons, Williams has accumulated 17 sacks. Hilton himself has added 8.5. They have registered more than 50 sacks in each of the past three seasons, and are well-positioned to do so again in 2020. They only need to average 2.7 sacks per game the rest of the way to get there for the fourth season in a row. And if they do, it will be thanks to the contributions of lesser-heralded players like Williams and Hilton.