Over the course of their historical past, the Steelers have produced among the greatest defenses that the NFL has ever seen, however this 12 months’s unit may high all of them, at the least statistically.
Heading into Week 13, the Steelers protection leads the NFL in three key classes: They’ve probably the most sacks (41), probably the most takeaways (23) they usually’ve additionally given up the fewest factors (188). The rationale that is notable is that because the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, no protection has ever completed the season because the chief in all three of these classes. For defenses, that is principally the triple crown.
To offer you an thought of simply how tough it’s to steer the NFL in all of these three classes, simply think about this: Solely three groups have ever even made it to December whereas ranked first in every of these classes. Not solely is the checklist simply three groups lengthy — and now 4 with the Steelers — however the earlier groups had three of the perfect defenses of all-time: the 1985 Bears, 2000 Ravens and 2017 Jaguars. Each the Bears and Ravens received the Tremendous Bowl whereas the Jaguars would trip their protection all the way in which to the AFC title recreation earlier than dropping to Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Here is how every of these defenses completed in every class:
1985 Bears: That is largely thought-about the best protection of all-time, however even the Bears did not lead the NFL in all three classes. After the 1985 season ended, the Bears have been ranked first in takeaways they usually additionally gave up the fewest factors within the NFL, however they did not finish the 12 months as the general sack leaders. Led by Richard Dent, who totaled an NFL-high 17 sacks, the Bears racked up a complete of 64 sacks in 1985. Nonetheless, that was solely good for third because the Giants (68) and Raiders each completed with extra (65).
End result: Gave up the fewest factors, first in takeaways, second in sacks.
2000 Ravens: Just like the 1985 Bears, the Ravens completed the season because the chief in two of those three metrics, however they could not fairly end off the sweep. Though the Ravens ranked first in takeaways whereas additionally giving up the fewest factors, they did not finish the 12 months with the general sack lead. Again in 2000, if the Ravens struggled at one factor, it was sacking the opposing quarterback. Baltimore recorded simply 35 sacks on the season, which ranked twenty second within the NFL and put them nicely behind the Saints, who led the league with 66.
End result: Gave up the fewest factors, first in takeaways, twenty second in sacks.
2017 Jaguars: Though the Jaguars did not end the clear sweep, they did find yourself ending in second in all three classes. Within the sack division, the Jaguars completed with 55, which left them one behind the Steelers, who led the league with 56. The Steelers truly racked up six sacks of their common season finale, which allowed them to steal the sack title from Jacksonville. Mockingly sufficient, the Jaguars and Steeler ended up assembly within the playoffs that 12 months and Jacksonville received a recreation the place they sacked Ben Roethlisberger twice whereas given up zero sacks. As for factors allowed, the Jaguars surrendered 268 on the season, which completed second behind the Vikings, who solely gave up 252 factors. The Jaguars additionally had 33 takeaways on the 12 months, which put them one behind the Ravens, who had 34.
End result: Gave up the second-fewest factors, second in takeaways, second in sacks.
As for the Steelers, it isn’t that loopy to assume they could possibly be the primary crew to tug off the defensive triple crown. They’ve 23 takeaways on the 12 months, which leads the NFL by three. To lose this lead, the Steelers are going to must decelerate their tempo or the second-place crew (Tampa Bay) goes to have to choose issues up. With the Buccaneers on a bye this week, the Steelers may truly prolong their lead within the turnover division if they’ll power just a few in opposition to Washington.
On the factors finish, the Steelers have solely surrendered 188 factors on the season, which places them comfortably forward of the Dolphins (205), Ravens (214) and Rams (215). Of the Steelers remaining 5 opponents, three of them — Cleveland, Cincinnati and Washington — rank within the backside half of the league in scoring.
The Steelers additionally lead the NFL in sacks, however this could possibly be probably the most tough one to win. By means of 12 weeks, the Steelers have 41 sacks, which is 5 greater than anybody else, however the issue right here is that they simply misplaced Bud Dupree for the season. Dupree was second on the crew in sacks with eight and he will not be simple to interchange. That being mentioned, the Bengals have surrendered the second-most sacks within the NFL and Washington has given up the third-most, so there are undoubtedly just a few video games on their remaining schedule the place the Steelers ought to be capable to pad their stats.
Mainly, the Steelers are on the cusp of constructing historical past and it isn’t too loopy to assume that the 2020 model of the Metal Curtain can pull it off.