The Pittsburgh Steelers, suffice it to say, have a pretty good pass rush. I’m not sure that there is any outlet out there that keeps track of these sorts of things that has any other team’s pass rush rated higher than Pittsburgh’s. They have more sacks and hits than anyone and also have the highest pressure percentage, so there really isn’t much of an argument to make.
Heading into the season finale, they already have 52 sacks, leading the NFL. 37 of those sacks have come from their defensive front four of T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Cameron Heyward, and Stephon Tuitt. Watt has 15 by himself, the second-most in a single season in Steelers history. Even though he was lost for the season weeks ago, Dupree still had eight this year. Tuitt posted a career-best with 10, while Heyward has been under the radar with four.
“It starts first and foremost with the guys that we have”, head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters on Tuesday when he was asked to explain why their pass rush has been so successful. “I don’t want to take anything away from them. Guys like T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt and Bud Dupree and others, they provide the wave that we all ride. We’ve got quality players in our front. Some of the best in the world at what they do and I think the total that you mentioned is reflective of that”.
That’s not to say that players can’t be coached, and that that doesn’t play a role. All you have to do is look at a player like Dupree and the trajectory that his career has had, getting better every season when his health has allowed for it.
The Steelers are also one of the teams who blitz the most in the NFL, and they have core blitzers like Mike Hilton out of the slot and Vince Williams from the linebacker position, each of whom have three sacks this year—and that isn’t either one’s career best.
At the end of the day, however, winning in the pass rush comes down to one man beating another, more often than not, and for that you need raw talent. The Steelers have the raw talent to match up against any offensive line in the NFL.
One can easily make the argument that it has been the one sole quality that they possess this season that makes them stand out, and has kept them ahead of most of the pack, in addition to overshadowing many of their shortcomings in other areas.