Steelers season stats that stood out on defense in 2018

During the entirety of the 2018 regular season, the Steel City Underground staff has watched the numbers the Pittsburgh Steelers put together in a season that could have been remarkable. In the case of how players play – on the field – the numbers typically don’t lie. In 2018, it was things that happened in the locker room, on the sideline, or away from the playing field that skewed impressions. Today, we look at season stats that stood out for the Steelers as a team on the defensive side of the ball and individual stats that show this was a much better team if you eliminate all the extraneous activity that got in this team’s way.

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Cam remains key piston in the defensive engine

Defensive tackle Cameron Heyward has become one of the critical components to the Steelers defense and in 2018, he showed veteran leadership and helped get the defense firing together once again. Heyward moved into a position with some of the very best defensive players in Steelers history when he surpassed Aaron Smith for seventh-most sacks in franchise history (since sacks became an official stat in 1982). His 45.0 sacks also moved Heyward to second-most sacks in franchise history by a Steelers defensive lineman. In his regular-season career, Heyward has logged multiple sacks in nine games.

Steelers Rank – Player  – Years –  Career Sack Total

Steelers Rank – Defensive Lineman – Years – Career Sack Total

Heyward finished his 2018 regular season campaign with 8.0 total sacks (his second-best career year in that statistic). He also added 51 tackles (29 solo), three passes defensed, and forced one fumble. Heyward remained a key component to not only providing pass rush but also in helping limit opponents to 72-of-197 third-down conversions and 5,235 total offensive yards (to the Steelers’ 6,453).

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Watt a machine!

In his second season, linebacker T.J. Watt got very close to doubling his rookie season totals in defensive stats and showed he could just be warming up. Watt led all Steelers defenders in sacks with 13.0; that number also tied him at seventh-most sacks in the league in 2018 with Frank Clark, Dee Ford, Chandler Jones, and Ryan Kerrigan. Those sacks were a single-season career high for Watt and was the seventh-most by a Steelers player.

Watt’s career sack total moved to 20.0 in 2018 – the most by a Steelers player in their first two seasons in the NFL (LaMarr Woodley: 15.5, 2007-2008) with the team.

Watt became the first Steelers player with at least six defensive forced fumbles in a single season since James Harrison (2010: 6) and increased his career total to seven (which tied Harrison’s 2008 season total).

Watt finished the season ranked fifth on the Steelers defense in tackles (68 combined, 50 solo).

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Stephon Tuitt increased his season sack total to 5.5 in the final game of the regular season against the Cincinnati Bengals and his career sack total to 20.0.


Safety Sean Davis led the Steelers in tackles on the season with 80 (59 solo). He also added an interception for a 27-yard return.


Since coming to the Steelers, corner Joe Haden has helped shore-up the defensive backfield. Haden led the Steelers defense in total interceptions (2), moving his career total to 22. Haden also recorded 12 passes defensed and 51 solo tackles in 2018.


The Steelers defense finished the regular season ranked sixth in the league in both rushing yards allowed per game (96.1) and total yards allowed per game (327.2). They ranked tenth in passing yards allowed per game (231.1) and 17th in points allowed per game (22.5).

2 responses to “Steelers season stats that stood out on defense in 2018”

  1. Imperial Destroyer says:

    I, too, really like many of these players on defense. The whole DL, Watt. Love the way Williams hits. Hilton, Haden and Davis. Their individual skills and efforts stand out, and they comprise most of the defense. What I see as holding them back is communication, and one way or another, that falls to the coordinator when it’s visible throughout the defense. Tomlin has all but admitted he’s a big part of the in-game defense, but that’s a discussion for another time. What I’d like to point out here is that the offense scored an average of 4 more points per game than the average team. The defense allowed right at the average. If the defense had done as well (allowed 4 points less per game), the Steelers would have finished 13-3. They really miss Shazier, and even perhaps Lebeau.

    • Christina "Tina" Rivers says:

      The defense continued to have issues, for sure, in 2018. I have not been “sold” that Keith Butler has quite figured out what type of defense he wants to run. And if he’s not convinced, how can the players on the field comprehend the schemes. That, to me, was a glaring issue this past season. When players have to spend most of their pre-snap hand-signaling each other, yelling, shifting, or making sure someone is covering the right person – that’s a MAJOR issue in my opinion. I thought Butler would go to a hybrid 4-3, but I’m not even sure you could look at the tape and call it that. So, yes, I am on board with questioning Butler. As for LeBeau, I loved his creativity but I’m not convinced his schemes would hold up against the new juggernaut type of offense that 2018 rolled out.

      Call it a conspiracy, but after the issues the NFL had with the anthem issues/protests, it felt like the rules all changed to favor big shoot-outs and offensive production in 2018. Get the fans to forget about boycotting stuff by giving them huge scores, tight games or offensive fireworks?

      I think defenses across the league (look at the Denver Broncos) that should have been major competitors were stymied by the rules, by the way offenses opened things up, and the lack of adjustments made by many DC’s. Butler needed help, whether from Tomlin or the assistants. I think even the coaching staff was not on the same page and that translated to what happened on the field.

      the Steelers should have been better than they were on defense based on talent. Unfortunately, talent does not always convert to success. And I think we all saw that this season.

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