Updated: Mar 4
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
The Steelers have led the league in sacks in each of the last four seasons and have recorded a sack in 73 consecutive regular-season games, which is an NFL record. Coincidentally, the last two times the Steelers haven't recorded a sack in a game came in their last two playoff losses -- against the Jaguars in 2017 and the Browns in 2020.
With J.J. Watt signing with the Cardinals yesterday, Brad Gagnon of Bleacher Report ranked the NFL's best pass-rushing fronts in the league, and to no surprise, the Steelers ranked No. 1.
Bud Dupree has turned the corner as a pass-rusher the last two years with 19.5 sacks in 27 games, but it's unlikely the Steelers will be able to re-sign the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent in a few weeks, as they simply don't have the cap space. Dupree is in for a big pay day (16 million per year or more most likely), and the Steelers are currently projected to be around $12 million over the salary cap.
The Steelers still have Stephon Tuitt, who is coming off a career year and the always reliable Cameron Heyward, along with arguably the best defensive player in the game in T.J. Watt. He didn't win Defensive Player of the Year the last two seasons, but he finished third in 2019 and second in 2020. Many feel like he got robbed from the award the last two seasons, especially this past season when he led the league in sacks (15), tackles for loss (23) and quarterback hits (41).
Watt's numbers were better than Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald in all three of those categories, but the Associated Press ended up picking Donald as DPOY. Regardless, Donald is a phenomenal football player and will someday be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Below is a list of stats compiled by NFL on CBS that compare Donald and Watt over the past three seasons. Albeit, they do play different positions, Watt leads in every category except for one.
Even with Pittsburgh most likely losing Dupree, it's hard to argue with Gagnon having the Steelers as the No. 1 pass-rushing front. You could make an argument for the Buccaneers' front, but I don't think they'll be as elite if they lose Shaquil Barrett in free agency. Washington also has a very young and talented front four led by Rookie Defensive Player of the Year Chase Young. J.J. Watt is now paired with Chandler Jones in Arizona and they could be a great duo together, however, the elder Watt is not the same player as he once was, as he's produced just nine sacks in the last two seasons.