Sack-Happy Steelers Can Tie NFL Record vs. Washington

Vince Williams sack celebration

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Cameron Heyward and Vince Williams of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrate Williams’ sack of quarterback Case Keenum of the Denver Broncos on November 25, 2018.

It’s a record that’s more than four years in the making, but if the Pittsburgh Steelers register a sack on Monday versus Washington, the team will tie the NFL mark of getting at least one sack in 69 consecutive games. That record is currently held by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who established the benchmark between 1999 and 2003, a time frame that overlaps the period that Mike Tomlin was part of Tampa Bay’s staff (2001-05) as defensive backs coach.

Earlier this week, Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (who leads the NFL with 11 sacks), said getting the record isn’t a focus of the team’s defense.

“We’ve never really talked in depth about any of that stuff,” he advised. “We’re just trying to be the best team we [can] possibly be. All that matters is getting the win.”

Washington Has Allowed the 3rd Most Sacks in the NFL

But there’s little doubt the Steelers would like to tie and then set the record, and Washington appears to be the right opponent at the right time—at least when it comes to getting a sack or three. That’s because Washington starts a 36-year-old quarterback in Alex Smith, who appears to have lost some of his mobility in the wake of his nearly career-ending leg injury, which he suffered in November 2018.

Never mind the fact that Washington has already allowed 35 sacks this season, the third-highest amount in the NFL. Or that the Steelers have recorded two or more sacks in 13 consecutive games.

Pittsburgh has been held to just one sack in eight of its past 68 games, including its 39-38 win over the Ravens in December 2017, when T.J. Watt sacked Joe Flacco as time expired.

Not surprisingly, Watt is the Steelers player with the most sacks during the 68-game period, even though he was still in college at Wisconsin when the streak began on November 6, 2016. Watt has been credited with 45.5 sacks since then, followed by Bud Dupree (35.5), Cameron Heyward (32), Stephon Tuitt (23) and Vince Williams (18). Twenty-four other players have also brought down the QB during the streak, including former Steelers like Javon Hargrave (Philadelphia Eagles) and Dan McCullers (Chicago Bears), as well as Anthony Chickillo and Mark Barron, both now playing for the Denver Broncos.

Steelers Poised to Set a New Franchise Sacks Record, Too

What’s even more impressive, perhaps, is that Pittsburgh is well on its way to leading the NFL in sacks for the fourth season in a row, currently ahead of Washington and Philadelphia (both tied for second) by a count of 41-36. And if the Steelers can record 50 or more sacks this season, they would set a new franchise record for most consecutive seasons with 50+ sacks.

That’s especially impressive in light of the fact that no NFL team has recorded 50+ sacks for four consecutive years since the 1980s, when the New York Giants did it between 1985-88. The NFL record is five years in a row, held by three teams—Washington, Dallas and Chicago—all of whom did it between 1983-87.

In order to break the franchise’s single-season sack record (set in 2017), the Steelers would need to record 57 sacks—that is, get 16 sacks over the course of the next five games.

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