For the fourth straight season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have led the NFL in sacks, either outright or by virtue of a tie. The last time a team has recorded at least four straight seasons of 50 or more sacks, the final year of their streak was 1988. The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is doing something that hasn’t been seen in over 30 years. The only problem is, all their success in sacking the quarterback during the regular season has not extended into the playoffs.
If the Steelers can get 50 or more sacks next season, they will enter into a four-way tie for the most consecutive seasons since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. There are currently three teams who have had five consecutive seasons of 50 or more sacks, and they all three did it in the same time frame. The Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and Washington Redskins all put up 50 or more sacks from 1983 to 1987. What sets the Steelers apart from these teams is they led the league in sacks all four years in which they went over 50 where the three previously mention teams, along with the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Raiders, and San Francisco 49ers who had four consecutive seasons of 50 or more sacks in the same time period, is they were teams flipping back-and-forth between which team had the lead for the league during those years.
From 1983 to 1988, sacking the quarterback was going wild in the NFL. Over the six seasons, they were 45 times in which an NFL team reached the 50 sack threshold including the Steelers in 1983. To put the amount of teams reaching 50 sacks in a six-year period into perspective, it would take going back to the 1999 season through the current 2020 season (22 years) in order to reach 45 teams that have reached 50 sacks (46 to be exact).
So in looking at how sacks in the NFL have changed in recent times, the Pittsburgh Steelers leading the league for four straight seasons, all of which were reaching 50 or more sacks, is quite the accomplishment. In fact, their lowest total over the last four years was 52 sacks in 2018.
The Steelers are also in the midst of a 73 consecutive regular-season game streak of recording at least one sack. The only mark which is better than this comes well before sacks were an official statistic, and even the NFL merger, as the Detroit Lions went 76 consecutive regular-season games with a sack from 1960 to 1965.
All these numbers and statistics sounds great as the Steelers defense has been stellar in this category for the last four years. But in the same time period, the Steelers have not registered a sack in the postseason in their two appearances. Granted it was only two games over this time, but had the Steelers been able to get to the quarterback in either of these two games it could have changed the outcome. Falling by three points to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 217, a sack at the right time could have made a very large difference. When it comes to the 2020 postseason, the Cleveland Browns did not convert a single third down longer than 6 yards. Had the Steelers put the Browns behind the chains by sacking Baker Mayfield even just one time in the first quarter, a scoring drive could have turned into a punt or a field goal.
When it comes to the Steelers setting records in the number of sacks they registered yet coming up empty in the postseason, it equates to so many other things. Ultimately it’s postseason success which means so much more than the regular season. The regular season is merely a means to get to the playoffs. If a team has 12 or 16 wins (or an 11 -game winning streak) and gets bounced out of the playoffs, did the regular-season success really matter?
Postseason football is an entirely different monster than the regular season. Every postseason game is a bigger stage than anything the regular season has to offer. Over the last four seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense has done a great job of getting to the quarterback. But on the biggest stage, the Steelers came up empty.