The Pittsburgh Steelers just learned that they will not be re-teaming their dynamic duo along their defensive line of Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. Tuitt just days ago announced his retirement from the NFL—around the same time that Heyward said he plans to play for five more years.
One team in the division, however, did recently manage to get its two ends back together after the Cleveland Browns homered out a new one-year contract to keep Jadeveon Clowney in the city for at least one more season. Nobody was more excited about it than Myles Garrett, their other end.
After all, he was pushing Clowney to re-sign throughout the offseason before he finally did so last month. “I told him to get his ass out here”, he told reporters of his recruiting pitch to Clowney, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “That was about it”.
The two of them combined for 25 sacks last season, which if I’m not mistaken was a franchise record for any defensive duo’s sack total in a single season. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ T.J. Watt, of course, nearly managed that himself, and with Cameron Heyward, they hit 32.5.
Garrett himself had a career-high 16 sacks after playing in every game for just the second time in his career, earning first-team All-Pro recognition. Clowney recorded nine sacks, which is just half a sack off of his own career-high mark.
“We were probably the best duo in the league as far as getting pressure, not always completing the play”, Garrett said of himself and Clowney. The two combined for 52 quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Reference, while Watt and Heyward had 57. They are credited with 84 combined pressures, with Clowney and Garrett a matching total of 84.
“I know teams like to get it out a little bit quick against us, but trying to put pressure on them, getting hands up, just his athleticism, the wingspan, causing guys trouble, it’s a special combo”, Garrett said, “and if he comes back in shape, I think we’ll be able to do something really, really special this year as well”.
It would be foolish to deny the talent at end the Browns have regardless of the rivalry between them and the Steelers, and how good Pittsburgh’s defensive talent is up front with two first-team All-Pros at their disposal, including the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
Given relative talent levels, it may well be the case that the Steelers’ offensive tackles will have more troubles with the Browns’ edge rushers than Cleveland will have with the Steelers’, thanks to having Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin at tackle versus Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor.
But that’s assuming that both of them stay healthy and manage to stay on the field, which hasn’t been a guarantee for either one of them.