Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
It’s no coincidence that the Steelers stopped fielding Super Bowl caliber teams around the same time they stopped fielding a top-flight pass rush.
Pittsburgh hasn’t hit 40 sacks in any of the past three seasons nor have they won a playoff game. They managed at least 47 in the three seasons prior, two of those three ended in the Super Bowl.
If the team is going to reach those heights again, then it must get after the passer.
There may not be one elite rusher, but there are several who could make this unit more than capable. Cameron Heyward turned in a five-sack season in his first as a starter. If he can equal or better those numbers, it would greatly help the linebackers behind him.
As for those linebackers, they are a potential-laden, yet largely unproven group.
Lawrence Timmons is the stalwart and a capable rusher with at least three sacks in five of the past six years. Jason Worilds, last year’s breakout star and team sack-leader, will be asked to lead the charge from Week 1 and prove he’s worth a big extension.
Those two will likely be flanked by Pittsburgh’s last two first round picks in Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier. Jones was pressed into duty last year and disappointed with just one lonely sack. He’ll need to show marked improvement in year two.
Shazier’s got eye-popping speed and should be able to earn a few sacks by virtue of that alone. If schemed properly, he can be a terror for opposing passers.