The Steelers Defense Could Set NFL History by the End of the Season

The Steelers have six Super Bowl titles, tying them with the Patriots for the most among all NFL teams. So it’s notable that they are having the best start to a season in franchise history. Before Pittsburgh lost to the Washington Football Team in Week 13, they were 11-0 — the longest they’ve ever gone without a loss in a season.

With that blemish on their record, the Steelers still have a good chance to go 15-1. This would match the best record in franchise history back in 2004. The defense is really driving the Steelers this season. In fact, “the D” could do something that no defense has done since the merger.

The Steelers are off to a strong start

Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers talk with his defense
Coach Mike Tomlin talk with the Steelers defense | Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

In their first 11 games, the Steelers only finished with fewer than 26 points once. And they had consecutive games where they scored 38. On the flip side, in those games, they held their opponents to 10 or fewer points three times; their opponents scored fewer than 20 points in six of 11 games.

Chase Claypool is having a breakout season as a rookie. He’s had eight receiving touchdowns — the sixth most in the NFL — as he adds to an already strong receiving corps in Pittsburgh.

A defensive triple crown for Pittsburgh?

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CBS Sports reports that, through Week 12, the Steelers led the NFL in three key defensive categories:- sacks, takeaways, and points allowed. Those categories are considered the triple crown for defenses. In their first 11 games, the Steelers recorded 41 sacks, had 23 takeaways, and gave up 188 points, putting them at the top of the leaderboard in all three categories.

Making a case to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, T.J. Watt has become the leader of the Steelers’ defense. Through 11 games, he’s tied with Aaron Donald with 11 sacks, holding the top spot with 17 tackles for a loss. That puts opposing offenses in a hole. Minkah Fitzpatrick has been tough for opponents’ passing games. He’s grabbed four interceptions — one returned for a touchdown — inflating the Steelers’ takeaway numbers.

The Steelers defense getting the triple crown won’t be easy

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If the Steelers can hang on to the lead in sacks, takeaways, and points allowed, they’ll be the first team in the Super Bowl era to accomplish the triple crown. It’s so difficult to achieve that only three teams, including this year’s Steelers, have made it to December at No. 1 in those categories. The last team who led the triple crown into December was the 2017 Jaguars. They didn’t lead the league in any categories at the season’s end.

Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only three teams have ended the season with the lead in two of those three categories. The similarity between those teams, the 1985 Bears, 2000 Ravens, and 2013 Seahawks, is that they all went on to win the Super Bowl thanks to their stellar defenses. They all gave up an average of six points in their three Super Bowls.

The 10 points the Bears gave up to the Patriots in Super Bowl XX was the highest point total any of those three teams gave up in the big game. So even if the Steelers don’t end up with the defensive triple crown in 2020, those numbers should give fans hope entering an expanded postseason.