Former Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Javon Hargrave was expected to anchor the Philadelphia Eagles defensive line this season—and perhaps he will still do so. But things are off to a rough start for Hargrave, who is expected to be out ‘multiple weeks,’ now listed with an upper body injury on the team’s first injury report.
Five months ago the Eagles signed the former Steelers standout to a three-year $39 million contract, leaving a big hole in the middle of Pittsburgh’s defense—literally and figuratively. Now the Steelers will be taking a nose tackle by committee approach, with veteran first-round pick Tyson Alualu the most likely starter and little-used Dan McCullers the likely backup. Chris Wormley, a four-year veteran who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Baltimore Ravens, could also be part of the rotation on the interior of the defensive line.
But by losing Hargave the Steelers lost an impact defensive lineman capable of both stopping the run and rushing the passer. During his four years in Pittsburgh, Hargrave played in 63 games, making 52 starts and contributing 168 tackles, including 22 tackles for loss. He also recorded 14.5 sacks and 22 quarterback hits, adding two passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Pittsburgh’s Defensive Line Remains a Strength
Yet even with the departure of Hargrave, defensive line remains one of the stronger parts of the team. Defensive end Cameron Heyward remains widely regarded as one of the Top 50 players in the NFL, and fellow defensive end Stephon Tuitt is perhaps the most underrated player on the Steelers. Better yet, Tuitt is considered a ‘dark horse’ pick to leapfrog Heyward and Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald to become the best in the NFL at his position.
Steelers Defense Poised to Set New Sack Record in 2020
The team’s ongoing strength on the defensive line is reflected in the fact that the Steelers will be aiming to set a new franchise record for sacks in 2020. Notably, the Steelers have recorded 50 or more sacks in three consecutive seasons. If the defense reaches 50 again this year it will be the first time in franchise history with 50 or more sacks in four consecutive seasons.
In 2017, the team set a single-season franchise record with 56 sacks, followed by 52 in 2018 and 54 in 2019. This year the Steelers return three players who had nine or more sacks last year: T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree and Heyward. But the defense also features an elite trio of cornerbacks who will make it challenging for opposing quarterbacks to find an open receiver.
If the Steelers do reach 50-plus sacks this year they would be the first NFL team to reach 50 or more in four consecutive seasons since the New York Giants did it between 1985 and 1988. The Eagles and San Francisco 49ers also had four-year-long streaks during the 1980s.
Follow the Heavy on Steelers Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!