Are you ready to see a lot more sacks from the Pittsburgh Steelers defense in 2022? After leading the NFL in total sacks for a fifth consecutive season in 2021, it’s not out of the question that the Steelers defense could extend that streak to six in 2022, especially if outside linebacker T.J. Watt has a season similar to last year. Building off that, the last three seasons the Steelers have had two players with double-digit sacks in the regular season. Can they do that a fourth time in a row in 2022? That’s highly likely. However, what about the team’s chances of having three players with double-digit sacks in 2022? With the NFL now having 17-game seasons, it’s plausible that could happen.
The Steelers have never had three players with double-digit sacks in a single season so 2022 would be the first time ever. Even though the Steelers have not accomplished that feat, it’s been done more times than you probably think over the years. According to Pro Football Reference, teams have had three players with double-digit sacks 35 times in total dating back to 1961. In the last 20 years, however, only twice has a team produced three players with double-digit sacks in a single regular season, and the Buffalo Bills were the team in back-to-back years in 2013 and 2014. Interesting enough, neither one of those Bills teams made the playoffs in 2013 and 2014.
The last time that the Steelers came reasonably close to having three players with double-digit sacks in a single season was in 2020. That season, Watt had 15 sacks, defensive end Stephon Tuitt had 11 sacks and outside linebacker Bud Dupree had 8. However, had Dupree not missed the final five games of that season with a knee injury, it’s likely that he would have hit double-digit sacks, as well.
Currently, the Steelers only have two players under contract who have achieved double-digit sack seasons in their NFL careers. Watt is obviously one of those players as he’s accomplished that feat four consecutive seasons. The other player is defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, who twice has registered double-digit sacks in a single season. With that, it would make sense that if the Steelers were to have three double-digit sackers in 2022 that Watt and Heyward would comprise two in the trio. In fact, it will be quite disappointing if both don’t hit double-digit sacks in 2022.
So, who would be the third player most likely to join Watt and Heyward as a third double-digit sacker in 2022? Well, obviously that player would likely be outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, who, to date, has eight career sacks in his first two NFL seasons. After registering a career-high six sacks in 2021, Highsmith has recently stated that his goal in 2022 is to hit double-digits. If he stays healthy in 2022, he should have a good shot at doing just that.
A double-digit sack season for Highsmith in 2022 would be smartly timed as well as 2023 is set to be the final year of his rookie contract. In short, a double-digit sack season by Highsmith in 2022 could lead to the Steelers’ former third-round draft pick out of Charlotte receiving a lucrative contract extension from the team next summer.
So, while the odds are very much against the Steelers having a trio of double-digit sackers in 2022, it’s quite plausible that they could. If they can accomplish such a feat, I suspect that Watt, Heyward, and Highsmith would comprise the trio. I look forward to seeing if they can do it.