he Pittsburgh Steelers defense has recorded 50 or more sacks in three consecutive seasons. Per Steelers.com, if Pittsburgh’s defense reaches 50 again this year it will be a new team record—the first time in franchise history with 50 or more sacks in four consecutive seasons.
Following are the team’s sack totals for the past three years:
2017: 56 sacks – single-season franchise record
2018: 52 sacks
2019: 54 sacks
Assuming the Steelers play 16 games in 2020, there’s a very good chance they will set a new franchise record. Not only do they return three players who had nine or more sacks last year—T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree and Cameron Heyward—they have an elite trio of cornerbacks who figure to make it challenging for quarterbacks to find an open receiver.
What is the NFL Record for Most Consecutive Seasons with 50+ Sacks?
If the Steelers do get 50-plus sacks this season they would be the first NFL team to reach 50 or more in four consecutive seasons since the New York Giants did it between 1985-88, which coincided with the heyday of Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor. The Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers also had four-year-long streaks during the 1980s.
As for the NFL record for most consecutive seasons with 50 or more sacks, that record is five, held by three teams, all of whom reached the mark in the same five seasons—1983-87. Those teams are the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and the NFL franchise from Washington.
As for why no team has had 50+ sacks four years in a row since the 1980s, there are a couple of possible explanations, which together more than offset the fact that NFL teams pass the ball more than they did in decades gone by.
One is that there is more of an effort made to get the ball away quickly in this day and age. The other is that the salary cap has made it more difficult to keep a group of quality pass rushers together for more than a few years—a problem that may force changes on Pittsburgh’s defense as soon as next year.
As of today, both Cameron Heyward and Bud Dupree are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in 2021, and it won’t be feasible to keep both long-term, though there is a chance the Steelers might use the franchise tag on Dupree for a second year in a row.
It doesn’t help that Dupree recently filed a grievance with the NFLPA, arguing that he is a defensive end and not a linebacker, which would mean an additional $2 million in salary in 2020, assuming his grievance is successful.
All 54 Pittsburgh Steelers Sacks in 2019
It’s also worth noting that the Steelers have recorded at least one sack in 57 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
Following is a video that includes every one of the team’s sacks from last year:.