Steelers’ Work In Both Trenches Helping Drive Their Success This Season

While having great players who can move the ball down the field and sack quarterbacks and intercept passes is a wonderful thing, there is a line of conventional wisdom that still holds that games are ultimately won and lost in the trenches. At the very least, the play in the trenches enables the rest to function.

And if that is the case, then the Pittsburgh Steelers have to consider themselves rather fortunate, as they have among the best offensive and defensive lines in the NFL, especially when it comes to the passing game, which is the primary means by which the football is moved in today’s game.

The Steelers are one of actually three teams in the NFL who place in the top five back in terms of sacks allowed and in sacks recorded. Their 41 recorded sacks on defense ranks second in the NFL, while their 19 sacks allowed are the fourth-fewest.

The other two teams are, unsurprisingly, the Jacksonville Jaguars, who lead the NFL with 47 sacks, but have also only allowed 20 sacks. The other team is the Los Angeles Chargers, who have 37 sacks, fifth-most in the league, while only allowing 15 sacks, the fewest in the NFL by two.

In fact, they are one of just five teams to have recorded twice as many or more sacks than they have surrendered. As you can gather from the numbers above, the Jaguars and Chargers both qualify, as do the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints, though just barely.

The Falcons and Saints have both allowed 17 sacks this season and recorded 34, so they have exactly twice as many recorded sacks as sacks surrendered. Apart from these fives teams, no others can claim this. In fact, nearly have the league has given up more sacks than they have recorded.

Pittsburgh is the only team in the league to have 40 or more sacks while surrendering fewer than 20, as well. Considering the number of sacks that can be attributed to Ben Roethlisberger this season, the Steelers’ offensive line should really be commended. That includes Chris Hubbard in particular.

Defensively, the Steelers have had success getting pressure up the middle, with defensive end Cameron Heyward posting a career-high nine sacks. Inside linebacker Vince Williams’ seven sacks are also a career-high, and tied for the third-most by an inside linebacker in team history.

While the sacks production off the edges could be better, T.J. Watt’s six sacks for a rookie are the second-most in team history, and they have gotten the contributions from others when needed. The pressure has been more consistent than any in the past seven years.

Just to make this all that much more impressive, the Steelers have also thrown more passes than every other team in the league, meaning that they have had more opportunities to be sacked than anybody, and have also faced the second-fewest passes thrown against them, meaning that they have had fewer chances to record sacks than almost every other team.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • NCSteel

    Looking at some of the other
    names mentioned in this article,
    Jacksonville and Los Angeles are really good teams.
    Truthfully, theres a few hot teams out there who can still prevent problems in the playoffs besides New England.
    Converesely, perhaps one will knock New England off for us too.

  • Steeler Nation!

    This has been a consistent strength of this team, that allows the skilled position players to make thei plays that they make. I can’t think of a bigger moment for the O and D lines to take over than this Sunday. If we can control the line of scrimmage on Offense and play keep away from the Pats, it will absolutely help our cause. And for the D line to get some push vs the Pats, get in Brady’s face, and help stop the run will be huge. If they can pressure without us having to sacrifice coverage all the time, you gotta like our chances.

  • rystorm06

    Yup. The way I see it, is the key to beating the Patriots is Heyward, Hargrave, and Tuitt playing a strong game. Inside pressure is the way to beat Brady.

  • ThatGuy

    Jax and LAC are tough but I would feel better about those matchups in Pittsburgh in the cold of January.

  • John

    True. The good news is the Chargers are at the bottom of the league in stopping the run. So if Bell is healthy, that should provide the Steelers with a big advantage. Of course on the flip side, the Chargers love throwing to the TE which we don’t cover well and they have Keenan Allen doing his AB impression.

  • Rob

    Do you have stats from this year that show we don’t cover the TE well?

  • John

    Yes. One problem we seem to have is that we played the Packers when they really needed the game to make the playoffs. We then played Cincy when their whole season was riding on the game and it was brutally physical. We then played the Ravens six days later in another physical game when they are making their playoff push. Now we are supposed to play the biggest regular season game of the year and we seem to be all beat up. BTW playing the Texans six days after the Pats won’t be helping either. No way we lose that game on a Sunday if we care. On a Saturday after playing the Pats? Let’s hope the Steelers somehow win this week and then we don’t have to worry about anything else.

  • David S

    Good points, though the Texans game is actually on Monday so they’ll have an extra day of rest.

    That TX game might be a letdown game after a month of critical emotional and tough games. But at least the Pats already lost so we’d hold the tiebreaker if we won this Sun and that TX letdown happened. Lotsa “if”s haha. Looking forward to the big game Sunday!

  • falconsaftey43

    they actually show the opposite, Steelers defending TEs very well this year. If I remember right it was 5th in receptions, 7th in yards and 2nd in TDs.

  • Rob

    Dammit falcon, its always better when they say they don’t have the stats bc they don’t exist 🙁

  • falconsaftey43

    Steelers allow a sack on 3.6% of pass attempts (2nd) and get a sack on 9.0% of pass attempts (2nd). They’ve been productive in the sack department for sure.

  • Chad Weiss

    We beat Pat’s we can afford to lose a game

  • Bill

    Steelers are 23rd against the run; sack stats are not the only measure of defensive line. 3/4 DL is supposed to control the scrimmage line and keep the blockers of the linebackers to allow them to make the plays. If the defensive lineman are going to concentrate primarily on the pass rush, men in the box are going to get knocked off and good running teams will make you pay.

  • falconsaftey43

    they’re a one gap 3-4 defense now. Not like the days of Smith-Hampton-Keisel where they 2 gapped and tried to keep the LBs free. Pretty much each guy has a gap to defend now.

    But yes, the team has not defended the run well this year.

  • mezzetin1

    In yo face!

  • mezzetin1

    We ain’t going down to Jacksonville. You crazy?

  • Chad Weiss

    Please explain I’m super curious as to what you’re getting at

  • Matt Manzo

    Crazy, cuz it seems like the pressure isn’t consistent enough! If we could clean up the run D and get a couple more sacks, we’d be grrrreat!

  • Brenton deed

    The Steelers seemed to get gouged on outside runs against the Ravens. Is that primarily the DL or the LBs at fault?