Sack Breakdown: Steelers 2021 Season In Review

As we do every season, we’re taking a step back and reviewing all the sacks the Pittsburgh Steelers allowed in 2021. Unfortunately, there were far too many of them this season, 38 in the regular season (plus another two in the Wild Card loss, though we won’t be including those in the numbers below).

A virtually brand new offensive line, this group struggled in comparison to past units, even last year’s aging group.

Below, we’ll recap where we assigned the sack blame this season and get into some other data points worth mentioning. We’ll also do the same for penalties.

Sack Breakdown (Season)

Dan Moore Jr.: 7.5
Trai Turner: 6.5
Ben Roethlisberger: 5
Coverage/Scheme: 4
Kendrick Green: 3.5
Joe Haeg: 3
Chukwuma Okorafor: 2
Wide Receivers: 1.5
Zach Gentry: 1
Kevin Dotson: 1
Chase Claypool: 1
Najee Harris: 1
Benny Snell: 1

Sack Breakdown (Pass Pro Snaps Per Sack Allowed – 756 total regular season snaps)

Higher the number, the better.

Haeg: 70.3 (211 pass pro snaps)
Moore: 93.6 (702 pass pro snaps)
Turner: 107.7 (700 pass pro snaps)
Green: 179.7 (629 pass pro snaps)
Okorafor: 340.5  (681 pass pro snaps)
Dotson: 354 (354 pass pro snaps)

Of players who started multiple games last season, the lowest/worst pass pro sack rate was Matt Feiler at 203.6. Four different Steelers were lower than that mark in 2021 – Haeg, Moore, Turner, and Green. Sums up the o-line struggles.

Five offensive linemen who has pass protection snaps this season did not allow a sack. They are, in order from fewest to most pass pro snaps:

Zach Banner: 1
Rashaad Coward: 2
B.J. Finney: 68
J.C. Hassenauer: 174
John Leglue: 259

In past years, I’d post a yearly chart to show year-by-year sack numbers. With such a new line, there isn’t much history so I’m not going to post it here. But I’ll jot down a couple other thoughts

– Dan Moore Jr’s 7.5 sacks allowed is the most I’ve assigned to an offensive lineman over the last six years. But most of those sacks came early in the year. Over his first 12 games, he allowed seven sacks. Over his final six (including the Wild Card game) he allowed just one, a half-sack in two separate games. Context is key as is his improvement.

– For reference, since 2015, I never charted Maurkice Pouncey with more than 2.5 sacks allowed in a season. In 2019 and 2020 combined, I had him down for allowing one total sack (half-sack in 2019 and 2020). Kendrick Green allowed 3.5, a high number for a center who is usually offering help to his guards.

– In terms of pure sack numbers, Chukwuma Okorafor’s data is impressive. 2.5 sacks allowed last year, two sacks allowed this year. But I don’t think his protection is as good as that metric indicates.

– For the final time, here are Ben Roethlisberger’s yearly sack numbers:

2021 – 5.0
2020 –
2019 – N/A
2018 – 0.5
2017 – 3.5
2016 – 3.5
2015 – 1.5

By far the highest number I’ve attributed to him.

– Ten of the Steelers’ 38 sacks this season came off play action. 26% of them, over a quarter of their sacks. Pittsburgh has been an ineffective play action team for years. 2021 might have been their worst.

– Now let’s check out the o-line penalty breakdown:

Penalty Breakdown (Season)

Chukwuma Okorafor: 8
Kendrick Green: 6
Kevin Dotson: 5
Trai Turner: 5
John Leglue: 4
Dan Moore Jr.: 2
Joe Haeg: 1

– While Okorafor allowed only two sacks, he was by far the team leader with eight penalties. Combine that with the five he was called for in 2020 and you have 13 over the past two years. Not good. May have been a holding call or two that kept those sack numbers down.

Since 2015, the only Steeler to allow more penalties in a single-season than Okorafor’s eight was David DeCastro, who was flagged with an accepted penalty 11 times in 2016.

– Green was also penalized far too often, six times. Over his final five seasons, Maurkice Pouncey averaged just three penalties per season. Kevin Dotson’s number is also pretty high relative to the snaps he played.

– Five Steelers’ linemen were flagged 4+ times this year. Only one linemen a year ago, Okorafor, was flagged at least that often. Safe to say this year’s group wasn’t as technically sound, leading to those infractions, even if they were a more physical and athletic bunch.

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