Steelers brought the heat in 2019

The Steelers sacked quarterbacks an NFL-leading 54 times in 2019.

The final defensive series on Dec. 8 at Arizona, which included sacks No. 47 and No. 48 on the season, was as representative as any in illustrating the impact of the pass rush.

The Cardinals got the ball back at their 25-yard line with 1:42 remaining in regulation and the Steelers leading by six.

On first-and-10, defensive tackle Cam Heyward got to quarterback Kyler Murray for a loss of 5.

On second-and-15, Murray fought off contact from defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and outside linebacker Bud Dupree but stumbled and fumbled and eventually fell on the ball for a loss of 6.

On-third-and-22, Murray threw incomplete under intense pressure.

And on fourth-and-22, Murray was flushed backwards by Heyward, rolled left and managed a downfield heave just before being buried by outside linebacker T.J. Watt. Cornerback Joe Haden came up with the interception that put the exclamation point on a 23-17 triumph.

"When we got that four-man rush, we really lit our hair on fire," Heyward said.

Defensive coordinator Keith Butler has been adamant in recent seasons about the importance of generating a rush with four players, as opposed to blitzing.

The Steelers are still effective when they dial up pressures, but they can also drop seven defenders into coverage and send four after the passer.

The Cardinals game even featured a lot of three-man rushes due to the threat of Murray running, but even those found a way to get home (inside linebacker Vince Williams transitioned from a spy role via a delayed rush and dropped Murray on third-and-goal in the second quarter).

But with time running out and the run no longer a concern, the Steelers came after Murray with Watt, Hargrave, Heyward and Dupree on four consecutive snaps.

Game, set, match.

By season's end three of those players would have at least nine sacks (Watt 14.5, Dupree 11.5 and Heyward nine), which made the Steelers the only team in the league with such a threesome.

Other numbers that highlight the effectiveness of the Steelers' pass rush in 2019 include:

9 - The number of 50-sack seasons produced by the Steelers since sacks became an official statistic in 1982 (only the Eagles have more with 10).

10.51 - Opposing QBs were dropped on 10.51 percent of their pass attempts against the Steelers, the highest figure in the NFL.

57 - The number of consecutive regular-season games in which the Steelers have registered at least one sack, the longest streak in franchise history, the longest active streak in the league and the sixth-longest in NFL history.

And,

106 - The Steelers' league-leading sacks total the last two seasons.

About the only thing the pass rush didn't achieve was setting a franchise record for sacks in a single season. The 56 the Steelers managed in 2017 still stands.

Maybe next year.

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