Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Defense Sets Sacks Mark Browns QB Kizer Brought Down Six Times in Finale

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Defense Sets Sacks Mark Browns QB Kizer Brought Down Six Times in Finale

Article excerpt

Defensive end Cameron Heyward did all the heavy lifting in the first 15 games of the season to get the Steelers defense in position to break the franchise record for sacks in a season. He led the team with 12 sacks and desperately wanted to be on the field for the regular-season finale against the Browns.

So when Heyward walked into the locker room Sunday morning to find his name on the inactive list there was some profound disappointment He knew what head coach Mike Tomlin was doing. He wanted his best players completely healthy for the first playoff game, and Heyward, who missed the 2016 postseason, might be the defense's most indispensable player.

Still, that didn't make it any easier for Heyward.

"I was kind of bummed I didn't get to go the whole season," Heyward said. "I like playing, but I like the way a lot of guys stepped up."

As it turned out, the Steelers didn't need their top sacker to play in this game to set the record. Five defenders, including Tyson Alualu, who replaced Heyward in the starting lineup, recorded six sacks to give the Steelers 56 for the season, one more than the 1994 and 2001 defenses.

"New Blitzburgh, baby," inside linebacker Vince Williams crowed after the game. "There have been a lot of great guys who got sacks on quarterbacks in this stadium. I'm just happy we could add to it."

Williams got another sack, his eighth in a career year rushing the passer. After Heyward's 12 sacks the Steelers didn't have anyone else with more than eight. When L.J. Fort took down Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer in the fourth quarter he became the 13th Steelers defender to record a sack this season.

"This is a collective effort," Heyward said. "Everyone contributed to this. We like it that way. You can't just double one person. Hopefully we can take it into the playoffs and set some new records."

Who would have predicted this before the season began? …

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