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Sports

NFL: Sacks, Sacks, and More Sacks For the 2-0 Pittsburgh Steelers

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NFL: Sacks, Sacks, and More Sacks For the 2-0 Pittsburgh Steelers

2020-09-21 11:15:49

 

-by Bo Marchionte, Contributing Writer; Image: The Pittsburgh defense sacked Denver's quarterbacks seven times on Sunday. (Image Source: Bo Marchionte)​

In Week 1 the Pittsburgh Steelers defense proved that they were picking up where they left off last year with one of the fiercest defenses in the National Football League. When they knocked Drew Lock, out of the game on their second drive on Sunday it helped continue their dominant form in their Week 2 victory over the Denver Broncos.

Sacks, sacks, and more sacks.

“This is the code we live by,” coach Mike Tomlin said after the Steelers 26-21 victory over Denver.

Since 2018, the Steelers have recorded 116 sacks, which is the most among all NFL teams over that period. The end of their reign of terror on offenses has no end in sight.

The defense is relentlessly unforgiving with a current streak of 59-straight games with a sack. It is the fifth-longest streak in NFL history. Ten more games and they tie the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 69.

"They are awesome and fun to watch,” Ben Roethlisberger after snapping a two-game losing streak against the Broncos. “They were special. They bailed us out numerous times. They are one of the reasons I came back.”

Roethlisberger expressed his admiration for the way the defense has been unbreakable as the offense feels its way through the young season.

Last week Pittsburgh shutdown New York Giants Pro Bowl running back Saquon Barkley and this weekend against the Broncos they suffocated the Denver offense into submission. Sacks, fumbles, safeties, and interceptions were all on the menu as the Steelers defense feasted off the forced miscues of the Denver offense. 

Pittsburgh's first points of the day came from the defense after Bud Dupree forced a fumble by second-year quarterback Lock picked up by Mike Hilton. The nine-play drive covered 59 yards and ended with a James Conner two-yard touchdown run.

Dupree’s big play injured Lock and forced backup Jeff Driskel under center before the beginning of the second quarter. Driskel was sacked on his second drive of the game by Hilton as Pittsburgh was proving that regardless of name or number if you snap the ball you are likely going to be scrambling to stay upright.

Usually, the scoreboard does not lie but entering the fourth quarter it said that Denver trailed 17-14, which falsified the reality of the game. It wasn't that close.

The refs were not kind to Pittsburgh tossing the yellow hanky 10 times for 89 yards, more than doubling both the calls and yardage compared to the Broncos (4-30). The secondary seemed to be accused the most of not obeying the rules and the hit allowed the Broncos to sustain drives and stay in the game.

If this was a prize fight the Broncos took a beating but refused to go down. One hell of an effort on their behalf especially with Lock going down in the first quarter.

“We were highly penalized,” Mike Tomlin said when bringing up some of the issues that plagued the Steelers in Week 2. “We got a lot of growth ahead of us.”

Self-inflicted wounds seemed to echo the post-game interviews.

“I just didn’t play well enough,” said Roethlisberger wearing a flannel button-down much more relaxed than the designer suit he was wearing after the Monday Night game.

Roethlisberger finished with his first 300-yard plus passing game since Week 15 of 2018, but the ill-timed interception is the one play that bird-dogged his overall solid performance.

“When you play poorly and still win the game,” he said after going 29-for-41 with two touchdown passes and one interception, was again a reason he wanted to express his love for the way the defense played. 

The encouraging aspect for the offense at the end of the day was the growth between Roethlisberger and his two young receivers. Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool both scored and that should be a sign of things to come as the trio grow together through game reps.

With turnovers and penalties, Pittsburgh needed their seventh and final sack to seal the deal against Denver. The Broncos were driving the football in the final minutes and possibly flirting with the ability to leave the clock nearly empty if Pittsburgh would get the ball back.

“It was literally game-changing,” T.J. Watt said of Terrell Edmunds' sack on Driskel for a turnover on downs with 1:55 left to go in the game. Pittsburgh was able to run out the clock after Conner got lose on the final drive with a long run of 59 yards. That long run put Conner over 100 yards despite being relatively quiet for much of the game. 

Pittsburgh is playing with a full deck compared to last season and once (if) the offense catches up the defense, the Steelers are going to be in a position to beat anyone in the league.

 
 

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