The Pittsburgh Steelers, as it turns out, are good at sacking the quarterback. In fact, they have done it 20 times already this season, through just four games, and they have recorded at least five sacks in each of their past three games. Nobody in the NFL has more sacks so far this season, and that is in spite of the fact that most teams have played one more game than they have.
The Steelers entered Sunday’s game with 15 sacks, two behind their opponents, the Philadelphia Eagles, for the most in the NFL. But they held the Eagles to just one sack on the day while netting five of their own, including a sack and a half from Stephon Tuitt, who now has 3.5 on the season.
They are now just one of six teams with 15 sacks or more, and only one team, the Los Angeles Rams, has accumulated the same number, as they share the top spit right now. Aaron Donald leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks already as he looks to become just the third player ever to win the Defensive Player of the Year Award three times. But the Steelers have an advantage because they have played one fewer game.
And nobody has been putting pressure on the quarterback the way Pittsburgh has. In addition to their sacks, they also have 29 quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Focus, with T.J. Watt leading the way with eight, Tuitt with seven. Bud Dupree also has five quarterback hits, and Cameron Heyward has four. The site actually has Tuitt leading the team with 25 total pressures, Watt and Dupree both with 23, and Heyward with 17.
The Steelers have led the NFL in sacks in three consecutive years now, averaging 54 sacks per season during that span, including a franchise-record 56 in 2018. Needless to say, they are on-pace to shatter that number right now, as they are tracking for 80, but they almost surely will not sustain that level. The record for the most sacks by a team in a single season is 72, set by the Chicago Bears in 1984.
Can they threaten that record? They will have to average 4.33 sacks per game for the remaining 12 games of the 2020 season in order to tie that record. It would help to have a couple of big games along the way.
Provided that their front four stays healthy, however, it would be nothing short of an upset if they don’t somewhat easily clear the 50-sack mark once again. They have some of the best edge defenders and interior defensive linemen against the pass in the NFL.
Their next game will be a challenge, as the Cleveland Browns have had one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in the NFL this season, only allowing, for example, seven sacks in the first five games. And they have been going up against some of the most-sacked quarterbacks in the league. Something has to give between arguably the best pass rush and the best pass protection.