I doubt anybody is really in the mood at the moment to discuss landmarks, but the Pittsburgh Steelers hit a pretty significant one last night. Or, more specifically, defensive end Cameron Heyward hit a significant landmark last night when he hit New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
With his sack in the first quarter at the 4:14 mark, Heyward dropped Brady for an eight-yard loss on his tenth quarterback takedown of the season. In doing so, he became the first Steelers player to record double-digit sacks in a season since James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley both did it in 2010.
And even more impressively, he became just the second defensive lineman—really, the second player that is not an outside linebacker—to record double-digit sacks in a season in franchise history.
The only other Steelers lineman to ever accomplish that feat was Keith Willis, who actually managed to achieve it twice. He recorded a career-high 14 sacks in his second season in 1983, which was just the second season in which sacks were an official statistic. He also recorded 12 sacks in 1986.
After going two games without a sack—in the two games prior to that, he recorded two sacks in both—Heyward’s sack of Brady was his 10th, his previous career-high being seven and a half. He has, however, recorded at least seven sacks in each of his last three healthy seasons. He was limited to only parts of seven games last year, and recorded three sacks.
That was the 35th sack of his career, although that does not come with any special significance. It does put him one half of a sack behind Lawrence Timmons for the ninth-most in franchise history, as reckoned officially, with sacks beginning in 1982. It is the third-most be a defensive lineman, behind Willis’ 59 and Aaron Smith’s 44. While Smith could be in his sights next year, he has a way to go to get to Willis, who stands fourth in team history.
Heyward was one of two Steelers on the night to sack Brady, the other being Bud Dupree. Brady was actually the first quarterback that Dupree ever sacked in his career, doing so in the 2015 season opener in the first game he ever played.
Those two sacks give Pittsburgh 43 on the season, which in itself is a healthy total, but they still have two games to add to it. They currently rank tied for third in the league in sacks, trailing the Jaguars with 51 and the Rams with 47, the Panthers also have 43 on the season.
The second-leading sacker on the team is inside linebacker Vince Williams, but Dupree recorded his sixth last night, which ties him with rookie T.J. Watt for the third most on the team. Overall, the defense’s pressure has been solid on the season.