Stephon Tuitt recorded seven sacks for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first 10 games of the season, setting a career high. It also coincided with a dip in sack production for Cameron Heyward, who had just two over the first 10 weeks, after averaging nearly 10 sacks per season over the previous three years.
With Tuitt missing the game due to coronavirus protocols—it is presumed that he tested positive for Covid-19—it seems as though the production is drifting back in Heyward’s direction as his running mate isn’t on the field to absorb all of the pressure.
The ninth-year veteran recorded his third sack of the season by halftime, recording a takedown against Robert Griffin III just eight minutes into the game. Initially, he was also credited with spitting a second sack with Bud Dupree, which was set up by the rush of T.J. Watt, but it was later credited to Watt.
This was a significant sack, nevertheless. Heyward entered the game with 56 career sacks, which ranked sixth in franchise history. With his lone sack against the Baltimore Ravens, he drew even with outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley for the fifth-most sacks ever recorded by a Steeler.
And he may not done moving. With five games left to play, he could conceivably climb all the way up to third in franchise history with some productive games. Former outside linebacker Joey Porter currently sits third with 60 sacks as a Steeler. Next on the list is the team’s all-time leading sack-producer from the defensive line, Keith Willis, who is the only other lineman in team history to record double-digit sacks in a single season. Willis has 59.
Heyward had at least eight sacks in each of his previous three seasons heading into this year. Now at three with five games left to play, he would have to average a sack per game in order to maintain that pace for the 2020 season, which is, of course, unlikely.
Even though his sack total is down, however, that is not a reflection upon his overall level of play. Tuitt may be playing ahead of him this year, but they have long been recognized as virtual equals in terms of talent. Though he was sidelined for this game, this was Tuitt’s greatest opportunity in his career to shine, and he has made the most of it.
Meanwhile, his linemate is continuing to chase history. There are only five other players in the history of the franchise who have now done what he has done (starting in 1982, when sacks became an official statistic, for the inevitable stickler who may chime in).
Considering the fact that he is under contract for a few more years after this, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that he has a shot at the franchise record. James Harrison owns that record, and for a franchise so associated with the quarterback takedown, it is at a pretty low total of 80.5
Heyward needs 24 more sacks to break the record. He is under contract for four more years after this. Even if he doesn’t record another sack this year, he would only have to average six sacks per season over these four years to break the record—assuming he lasts that long.