The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has not displayed the game-to-game or even quarter-to-quarter consistency that you would like to see from a championship unit so far this season. It is understandable to have some concerns about that, even while recognizing that the team has been able to win in the process all the same.
Even with some of the consistency and communications slip ups, however, one thing that the defense has been doing so far this year has been making plays. Through six weeks, they lead the NFL with 24 sacks—and the remarkable thing is that a lot of teams have still not had their bye week, yet they still have more sacks.
In fact, they have recorded at least three sacks in every game so far, with the fewest coming against the New York Giants in the season opener. They had four sacks yesterday against the Cleveland Browns, a team that allowed just seven on the season in the first five games.
Another area in which they have been impactful is in turning the ball over, and specifically in intercepting passes. They have created nine takeaways in five games, and eight of them have been interceptions, tied for the second-most in the NFL behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They have four in just the past two games, with two in each game, and at least one in each.
Beginning the season with at least three sacks and an interception in each of your first five games is not just a remarkable achievement, it’s an exceedingly rare one. They are just the second team to ever do it in NFL history—at least since sacks became an official statistic in 1982—following in the footsteps of the 1985 Giants.
— NFL345 (@NFL345) October 18, 2020
The Giants ended that season with some truly astonishing defensive statistics, including 68 sacks—substantially more than the Steelers have ever had in a single season, by 12—and 24 interceptions, with 37 total takeaways by the defense.
Right now, the Steelers are on pace to shatter their own single-season sack record of 56, as they are currently tracking to hit 76-77. The NFL record for sacks in a single season is 72, set by the 1984 Chicago Bears.
The team is also on pace to record 25-6 interceptions. I’m not sure exactly what the team record for interceptions is in a single season, but the NFL record is an astonishing 49, though that was in the AFL by the San Diego Chargers in 1961.