The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers will sack Bears quarterback Justin Fields four or more times.
Explanation: Starting six of eight games, Fields has been sacked 26 times on the season, which is the most in the NFL. He has been sacked four times in each of his last three games, and in four of the five games in which he has attempted at least 20 passes. The Steelers are among the top sack-producing teams in the NFL. Though they have only recorded at least four sacks twice so far this season, those have come in their past two games.
Sacks can very much be a quarterback statistic, and nobody puts himself in more situations to be sacked than does Fields, the rookie out of Ohio State. Unless the Bears blow out the Steelers and prevent themselves from having to put the ball in the air, Fields is going to wind up on the ground a good number of times.
This is a defense with a healthy T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward, not to mention Alex Highsmith. They have the firepower to record four sacks in a game, which they have done each of the past two games. Geno Smith is probably the most comparable quarterback they’ve faced so far this year in terms of those who fail to avoid sacks, and they got him five times.
Smith dropped back to pass around 40 times in that game. Fields isn’t likely to come close to that. Even when they’re trailing, the Bears aren’t asking him to throw 40 times a game. They know that’s not where he is right now.
And when you’re facing a team like the Steelers, you’re going to intentionally gameplan to prevent what they do best, which is pressure. I’m sure Watt will see a lot of double teams, for example, and as the backfield gets healthier, that will take some pressure off of Fields, as well.
Plus, the rookie quarterback has some incredible athleticism. He has the maneuverability of a Lamar Jackson almost, in terms of his ability to move around and escape. He doesn’t always fully utilize it, but he’s learning and growing, as we saw on his 22-yard touchdown run last week.