The Pittsburgh Steelers entered Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts tied for the NFL lead with 47 sacks, though the two teams nearest them both played earlier this week. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers reached 47 sacks in 15 games, and the Arizona Cardinals hit 46.
Pittsburgh needed three sacks against a Colts team that had only allowed 16 all season in order to become the first team in 2020 to hit 50, and they got that by the end of the first drive of the third quarter, with T.J. Watt notching two sacks in the first half—including a big strip sack—and Stephon Tuitt being the watch to notch the 50th of the year toward the end of the opening drive of the third. It was his 10th of the season, giving him his first season of double-digit sacks in his career.
With the sack, the Steelers became the first team in the past 30-plus years to record at least 50 sacks in four consecutive seasons, matching a mark set by the New York Giants between 1985 and 1988. The Giants also had 48 sacks in 1984.
They are not, however, all that rare. In the early days of the ‘sack’, which became an official statistic in 1982, there were actually a number of teams putting up big numbers right away. Washington, the Dallas Cowboys, the Chicago Bears, the San Francisco 49ers, the Los Angeles Raiders, and the Philadelphia Eagles all recorded four consecutive seasons to more with at least 50 sacks at some point between 1982 and 1988, with Chicago and Washington each doing it in five consecutive seasons.
In other words, the Steelers can tie the all-time NFL record for the most consecutive seasons with 50-plus sacks if they are able to duplicate the feat that they have managed for four years running when they get into the 2021 season.
Avery Williamson picked up sack number 51 on the season on the first play of the Colts’ second drive of the half, putting them in second and 18 just after the offense got on the board with a 39-yard touchdown to Diontae Johnson. It was the fourth sack of the game and his first sack with the Steelers, the 13th different player on the year to record a sack for the team.
Heyward would add a fifth sack of the game to give the Steelers 52 for the game, which was somehow just his fourth of the year after three consecutive seasons of eight or more sacks. Their five sacks in the game are the second-most they have had in a game this season, and it came against one of the best pass-protecting teams in the NFL—granted, without both of their starting tackles.
And needless to say, that pressure was key to turning this game around in the second half. Not just the sacks, but the pressure, and that includes Alex Highsmith, who didn’t have a sack, but had several high-quality pass-rushing reps, some of which influenced important passes.