Steelers could keep an impressive statistical streak going in 2022
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a cut above the rest when it comes to getting after the quarterback. Here’s how they could keep their impressive sack streak going in 2022.
There are just some things we know the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to have a hard time with. They are probably never going to be a team loaded with elite cornerbacks or offensive tackles because of their lack of investments in these departments, and they usually aren’t the most creative team offensively. However, one thing we can always count on them to do well is getting after the quarterback.
Pittsburgh typically spends more money, resources, and draft capital on front-seven than any team in the league, and it shows. The Steelers have managed to move from one great pass-rush unit to the next.
This current group is led by a generational edge defender in T.J. Watt. Thanks to his emergence as one of the premier defenders in the league, the Steelers remain one of the best teams at getting after the quarterback post-James Harrison.
In fact, when it comes to current sack streaks, Pittsburgh is in a league of its own. The Steelers currently have 5 consecutive seasons of 50+ sacks. Remarkably, the 30 NFL teams have zero. The Minnesota Vikings are the only other team on the board with one consecutive season of 50+ sacks, according to NFL on CBS.
This is certainly an impressive feat. While it didn’t lead to Pittsburgh being anywhere close to the NFL’s top defense in 2021, their ability to get after the quarterback quickly is what can help them get back on top as one of the best defenses again as early as 2022.
Where Steelers defense must improve
The pass rush certainly wasn’t the problem for Pittsburgh last year; it was everything else. To the surprise of everyone, the Steelers finished the league dead last in run defense — both in total rushing yards allowed and yards per attempt, via Team Rankings.
This was incredibly uncharacteristic of them. It also could have been largely contributed to the loss of players like Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu in their interior defensive line as well as a lack of depth and struggling linebacker play.
Obviously, I would expect this part of their game to be much improved in 2021. The Steelers made proactive moves to try to improve in this department by adding defenders like Myles Jack, Larry Ogunjobi, and DeMarvin Leal. They will also be getting Alualu back this year and are hoping that players like Devin Bush and Isaiahh Loudermilk can take the next step forward.
The Steelers had a top-6 defense for four straight seasons from 2017 to 2019. I wouldn’t be surprised if they shot right back up in this area again in 2022.
In addition to a struggling run defense, the Steelers need to create more splash plays in the secondary this season. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that is consistent from year to year.
Despite their quick pressure, the Steelers were just 15th in takeaways per game last season. In comparison, they ranked 3rd in this category in 2020 and 1st in 2021 with a whopping 2.4 takeaways per contest.
I think the Steelers can make the necessary improvements on defense in the areas that were lacking last season, but assuming T.J. Watt stays healthy, I fully expect them to continue to be one of the best teams when it comes to getting after the quarterback, and they should be able to extend their 50+ sack streak to 6 years in a row following the 2022 season.