Of all that went wrong in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first round playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night, their lack of a pass rush may have been the most glaring.
The Steelers failed to reach Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, snapping their streak of 73-straight games with a sack. Pittsburgh did not even record a quarterback hit on Mayfield Sunday night.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Steelers posted just a 13.9% pressure rate in the loss, by far their lowest of the season.
The Steelers had a 13.9% pressure rate last night— PFF (@PFF) January 11, 2021
Their lowest of the season. pic.twitter.com/zFWeS1ZdG1
Considered the favorite to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt was a shell of himself Sunday, recording just three total tackles, a tackle-for-loss and a pass defended. Watt had paced the league in sacks (15), tackles-for-loss (23) and quarterback hits (41) during the regular season.
Rookie outside linebacker Alex Highsmith did not fair well either, recording just two tackles before exiting his first career playoff game due to injury.
Pittsburgh’s lack of a pass rush came as a shock, considering their 56 sacks in 2020 tied a franchise record. The Steelers have also posted 50 or more sacks in four-straight season.
Without their pass rush generating consistent pressure, the Steelers defense was torched for 48 points and 390 yards of total offense in Sunday’s defeat.