The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the regular season finale with 52 sacks across the first 15 games of the season, holding a three-sack lead over the Los Angeles Rams for the most in the NFL. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Washington Football Team, the Seattle Seahawks, and the New Orleans Saints are the only other teams within 10 sacks.
As long as the Rams don’t record four more sacks than do the Steelers in the final weekend of the regular season—or one of the other teams reach the magic number to surpass Pittsburgh’s total—then the Steelers would complete a unique feat in NFL history: they will become the first team to ever lead the league in sacks for four consecutive seasons.
The obvious implication is that they have already led the NFL in sacks (or shared the lead) in each of the past three seasons, which is in fact the case. They finished last season with 54 sacks, just one more than the Carolina Panthers. Their 52 sacks in 2018 tied for the league lead with the Kansas City Chiefs. They set a franchise record with 56 sacks back in 2017, one more than the Jacksonville Jaguars.
According to Gerry Dulac, writing for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, there has only been one other team to ever lead the league in sacks for three consecutive years, that being the Oakland Raiders—while playing in the AFL—between the 1966 and 1968 seasons, which was, of course, before the sack was even an official statistic.
On Sunday, the Steelers became the first team in more than three decades to record 50 or more sacks in four consecutive seasons, ramping up their total on the year from 47 to 52 against the Indianapolis Colts. T.J. Watt had two by himself, while Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and Avery Williamson each chipped in one.
Watt, of course, leads the way with 15 sacks this season, which is also the most in the NFL. Tuitt reached 10 sacks on the season for the first time in his career, in doing so becoming the third defensive lineman in team history to reach that mark. Bud Dupree had eight sacks before suffering a torn ACL.
Heyward notched his fourth sack of the year on Sunday, while each of Vince Williams and Mike Hilton have three, and several other contributors have pitched in either one or two, including Terrell Edmunds, Devin Bush, and Robert Spillane, for a total of 13 players adding to their sack total this season.
Of course, the key is actually taking that pass rush into the postseason and making sure that it counts, that it makes a difference—that it contributes to winning efforts. Setting regular season records is only so interesting if it doesn’t lead to postseason success.