Steelers’ Pass Rush On Super Bowl-Winning Pace

As we’ve written several times, and as I’m sure you noticed, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pass rush is back. And in a big way. They’re tied for second in the league in sacks with 24, mainly because of the insane numbers Jacksonville has posted this year (they’re first with 33).

Compare that to a year ago when the Steelers had just eight. That ranked dead last in the league. They’ve added T.J. Watt, gotten back a (mostly) healthy Bud Dupree, and have done the little things right to contain the quarterback and finish sacks. But the why isn’t important, the results are. When the Steelers’ pass rush is potent, this defense – this team – goes places.

The last time Pittsburgh recorded at least 24 sacks through seven weeks was 2008. That’s right, the year they beat the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl 43.

Diversity has been a theme in how the Steelers have gotten those sacks. Of the 24, seven have come from the defensive line. A pair from the secondary. There’s a three-way tie for the team lead with inside linebacker Vince Williams part of that group. It’s been scheme and guys winning their matchups. There’s veterans who have done it, James Harrison had one of the year’s most crucial ones, and the rookies have chipped in, too, like Watt, who started the year off hot.

In 2008, they finished with 51 sacks. This year, they’re on pace for 54, one short of the franchise record set in 1994 and 2001.

It’s one of the most impressive turnarounds the Steelers have shown, not just since last year but perhaps in the entire Mike Tomlin era. To go from a year ago, where the pass rush was nonexistent to inconsistent, only perking up when Keith Butler forced the issue. Now, the Steelers are blitzing at the lowest clip in Butler’s tenure. But they’re enjoying their biggest success.

It all adds up to another Super Bowl run.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Benjamin Netzel


  • will

    Alex………a little premature for the Super Bowl talk at week seven. No???? Preparing any Super Bowl shuffle videos? Making your hotel reservations?
    And congrats to Coach Butts! As he likes to say ” We are doin’ stuff.”

  • EdJHJr

    So this week, playing a team that does not run the ball, oh boy. This is set up for Abdullah to look like Walter Payton this week.

    Can’t help it , they have done it too many times

  • The Tony

    Best record in the AFC

  • Lambert58

    That’s awesome news! Wow 3x the amount of sacks from last year, this time? Incredible. Don’t want to get too excited, but things are shaping up nicely this year!

    Watt is looking like a STEAL at the end of the 1st round. (GB must be kicking themselves.)

  • Wham Charles

    They’ll have an excellent chance to up that sack pace to a franchise record against a Detroit team that is tied for fourth in the league in giving up sacks (23 allowed so far).

  • Grant Humphrey

    Oh I bet they are but thank the Cleveland Browns with them for that pick

  • CountryClub

    While 24 is great, especially compared to this point last year, they did finish last yr in the top 10.

  • Lambert58

    True. Don’t remember what they offered GB for #29.

  • Yea, because they had to manufacture pressure by blitzing. If your remember, the 3 and 4 man rush wasn’t hitting home. This year it is and in a big way.

  • CountryClub

    they still get a lot of their pressure off of blitzes and stunts. It’s not quite like last year, but they’re still not just flat out beating their man one on one.

  • It’s football, guys go against each other 60+ times a game. If you are expecting our guys to win on every snap, that just not realistic, plain and simple. But if they win half the time now we are onto something.

    The pressure is hitting home from a variety of looks and 3 and 4 rushes as well as blitz packages. They have been mixing it up with very good results thus far.

  • pittfan

    Add pressures and qb hits and off we go!!

  • Mark

    AWESOME, thank goodness the pass rush is back. All we need is for Bud to shorten his gap to the C gap instead of the E gap and rush more in line where the QB will be instead of being pushed up the arc 2 yards pass the QB.

  • CountryClub

    I don’t know what to tell you. I agree that they’re not blitzing as much as last year. But, they’re not winning one on one match ups either. Heyward has once or twice. All the others are sacks on hustle plays, blitzes or stunts (like Watt looping inside last week). We can certainly agree to disagree, no big deal.

  • Steve Johnson

    All we need is for Bud Dupree to learn more pass rushing moves. His 3rd year and still he only has one move.

  • Intense Camel

    Many have been coverage sacks, which is also a good thing.

  • srdan

    I like the numbers obviously, but I’m really pleased with how they get them. Meaning they can get them from any position, from the DT to the corners. Heck, you could argue the that Hargrave and Hilton are two of the most skilled blitzers on the team.

    The other thing I like is that we get the scheme sacks (dupree vs bengals) and the beat your man sacks (debo, and watt vs bengals).

    People coming from all over the place, and good pass rushers. One thing that should be mentioned too is that we rush the passer well but honor the rush lanes keeping QBs in the pocket.

  • Alex Kozora

    No reservations…just throwing out the history.

  • Alex Kozora

    They kinda are though. Butler’s blitzing WAY less than last year, less than he ever has.

  • falconsaftey43

    Just to be clear, Watt’s play was not a blitz or stunt. He used an inside move on the OT, but it was not a stunt (where DL crashes out into the OT and OLB loops back inside to the A gap trying to catch the G following the DL.) Watt simply had a one on one rush vs the OT and chose to go inside of him. Dupree’s sack was off a stunt.

  • Nathanael Dory

    Agree. Very difficult to game plan if they can get sacks in a various of ways

  • David Shoff

    They are winning one on one matchups MUCH more than they did last year. That’s why they had to blitz much more last year.

  • Ichabod

    I must confess, I’ve been slow to embrace them as top 5 in defense and sacks. But man, I don’t know how much longer I can deny them!
    I think I’m more worried about Bud than anyone on D

  • FATCAT716

    Coverage and pass rush go hand and hand. They put a massive amount of pressure on QB’s & we are covering guys which make the QB have to hold on to the ball a half a second longer. It’s been great

  • CountryClub

    people seem to be missing my overall point. It’s OK, I’m quite happy with how things have gone so far.

  • Josh

    Vince Williams last week? TJ Watt’s sacks? Hargrave’s pressure via walking a man straight up backwards? not sure what games you’re watching…

  • colingrant

    They’re just picking up from last year when they lead the league in sack totals for the last 8 games of the season by a healthy total if I recall.

  • Grant Humphrey

    It was for the 1st pick in the 4th round

  • falconsaftey43

    Yeah, even though Williams were both blitzes, they weren’t the “schemed up” sort where a guy comes in untouched. He straight owned the RB trying to block him.

  • CountryClub

    I’m very happy with the final result. Just hoping for more one on one victories (think Deebo vs KC).

  • Generic Steelers Fan

    I agree Steve. I bet if you asked him to name 3 different moves, he couldn’t. Really concerning…

    What a bust

  • nutty32

    Saints sent 5+ at the Lions almost the entire game & their O Line held up fairly nicely. The Saints are the Saints, but this will be a good barometer for our team. I’m gonna say that the only quick pressure we get this week will be from exotic blitzes & not beating blockers.

  • Alan Tman

    Wait until the offense gives them a lead.