It’s the caveat I’m forced to add anytime I’m passing along a “stat of the weird” related to sacks. The “since the stat became official in 1982” disclaimer that if I don’t add, someone will bring it up.
I may still need to add that context going forward. But the fine folks over at Pro Football Reference have given us a new window of stats and information we’ve never had before. They’ve done the incredibly tough job of researching sacks from 1960 to 1981. And though it’s not official and not 100% complete (they claim 99% of sacks from 1970 to 1981 have been accounted for), it’s giving us information we’ve never reliably had before.
Check out their post unveiling this information. Here’s the part about the completeness of their findings.
“These numbers are based upon review of official play-by-plays, watching game film, photographs and coaches’ stats. The work continues to this day as new information is discovered, particularly for numbers from the early 1960s.
It’s remarkable how thorough the research is, given the many obstacles. 99% of sacks from the 1970 merger to 1981 are accounted for. From 1966 to 1969, it’s closer to 95% (both AFL and NFL). 1961-64 is about 80% coverage. About two-thirds of sacks in 1960 are accounted for.”
Before this, we’ve had snippets of info about the Steel Curtain. There was at least an unofficial counting of Joe Greene’s stats. But now we have numbers on he and the rest of the Steel Curtain. Here are some of the most notable players unofficial/official sack totals.
L.C. Greenwood – 78
Joe Greene – 77.5
Dwight White – 55
Ernie Holmes – 39.5
Andy Russell – 38
Jack Ham – 25.5
Jack Lambert – 23.5
Donnie Shell – 9.5
So Greenwood has the most sacks of the new names on the list, narrowly edging out Greene, whose career was hindered by nerve damage in his shoulder. Combined, the Steel Curtain — Greenwood, Greene, White, Holmes, Russell, Lambert, and Ham — recorded 337 sacks.
Individually, Greene only had one double-digit sack season, 11 in 1972. He had only four in 1973, three in 1975, and 4.5 in 1978. Of course, he commanded attention of opposing offensive lines, double-up as his teammates took advantage of the 1v1 opportunities. Twice, Greenwood hit the 11-sack mark, 1971 and 1974. It was Ernie Holmes who had the most in a single season, notching 11.5 of them in 1974. As a team, the ’74 Steelers’ defense had 52 sacks in 14 games. Their 3.71 per-game average is the highest in team history as the team won their first of four Lombardis that decade.
In the postseason, L.C. Greenwood had four sacks in Super Bowl X over Dallas. That gives him the record of most sacks in Super Bowl history. No other player has more than three.
Here’s how the new Steelers’ top ten sack leaders look.
1. James Harrison – 80.5
2. L.C. Greenwood – 78
3. Joe Greene – 77.5
4. Jason Gildon – 77
5. Joey Porter – 60
6. Keith Willis – 59
7. Cam Heyward – 58
8. LaMarr Woodley – 57
9. Dwight White – 55
10. Greg Lloyd – 53.5
TJ Watt sits in 11th place with 49.5.
If you’d like to play around with the Steelers’ list, here’s a link to their sack leaders. Kudos to the PFR team for doing an excellent job. A labor of love but this is information we’ll always have.