The Pittsburgh Steelers sacked the Browns seven times in their week 17 rematch, with pressure coming from all directions. Stephon Tuitt led the way with two sacks, with Lawrence Timmons having 1.5 and the rest of the players who contributed each got one sack on quarterback Austin Davis.
We will skip over the biggest sack in the game, which was Timmons' sack fumble in the fourth quarter that led to an immediate offensive touchdown. That play will get covered in our game changing plays segment this week as it was one of the most pivotal moments in the Steelers' victory.
Ryan Shazier has shown improvement throughout the 2015-2016 NFL season. He had a key interception against the Denver Broncos and an explosive game in the home opener against the San Francisco 49ers, but his contributions in this game were able to show that the Steelers still have a solid young player in their 2014 first round pick. On this play, Shazier gets his hands inside of his man and drives him back into the quarterback which prevents Davis from rolling to his strong side and allows for Shazier to break into full chase and finish him off with the help of Timmons.
This is partially a coverage sack because the initial reads for Davis were covered by a solid scheme from defensive coordinator, Keith Butler. Cameron Heyward has a delayed zone coverage responsibility while James Harrison, Bud Dupree and Stephon Tuitt take on the five offensive linemen. This opens up a clear lane from Antwon Blake's delayed blitz point which allows him to use his speed to lock down Davis before he can go anywhere.
This is as much a team sack as it is attributable to Stephon Tuitt's hustle. James Harrison takes Joe Thomas to task and keeps his outside shoulder free as he drives the all-pro offensive tackle into the pocket and gives Davis nowhere to escape to his side. Meanwhile Tuitt works his way around the right tackle to quickly close on Davis and end the play. Tuitt and Heyward have proven to be extremely athletic big men that get after ball-carriers no matter what part of the field the play takes them.
The Steelers' pass rush finished the season with the third most sacks in all the NFL with 48 sacks. The last time the Steelers were able to tally 48 sacks in a single season was 2010, when Pittsburgh won the AFC Championship and made it to the Super Bowl. The only other season in the tenure of Mike Tomlin when the team had more sacks was 2008, when the team won Super Bowl 43, with 51 sacks.
Pittsburgh will need their pass rush to take control of some games in the 2016 NFL playoffs, but with the way they showed up last week, there is hope for a surge performance.