Eagles Insider

Eagles, Steelers out to prove who has NFL's best defensive line

Eagles Insider

They're No. 1 and 2 in sacks, No. 1 and 7 against the run and No. 4 and 6 in yards allowed per play. 

The two best defensive lines in the NFL will be on display at Heinz Field Sunday when the Eagles face the Steelers. 

The Steelers lead the NFL in sacks per pass play, and the Eagles are second.  

And the Eagles' defensive ilnemen weren't shy this week about talking about how they're going to measure their own performance against the guys on the other team.

"It is most definitely the top pass rushes I think in the game," said Javon Hargrave, who left Pittsburgh for the Eagles this year. "(We're both) just so deep. There are multiple guys that can pass rush on both teams. Coming from the Steelers and being with some of the best pass rushers to coming to the Eagles and seeing some of the great pass rushers, it was really eye-opening just to see how good both of these teams are at getting to the quarterback." 

The undefeated Steelers have 15 sacks in three games. T.J. Watt has 3½, Bud Dupree 2½ and Vince Williams and Stephon Tuitt two apiece. 

The Eagles have 17 sacks in four games. Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham have 3.0 each and Derek Barnett has 2½. 

Watt generally lines up on the defensive left side, so he'll have Lane Johnson, and Dupree will likely be across from Jordan Mailata. 

Malik Jackson said it's not really fair comparing the Eagles' pass rush to their counterparts because the Eagles throw the ball so much that opposing defenses get more shots at sacks. 


"Barely does the offense that we're playing run the same offense as our offense," he said. "Our offense might drop back 50 times. In the last few weeks, we haven't got that at all. I don't think we can even add it up to 50 times. So we play different offenses." 

Sounds logical but actually not true. The Eagles have thrown 41 times a game, and the Eagles have thrown 43½. So the chances for sacks are there. 

The Steelers are so good against the run — they're allowing an NFL-best 2.7 yards per carry and have allowed just eight rushing first downs — that they force teams to throw more than they want, which plays into their edge-rush wheelhouse. 

The Eagles have been OK against the run except for the Rams game. 

"We definitely want to show out and show up more and get more sacks, have more fun, borderline taunting a little bit," Jackson said. "We do want to show that we are the best D-line and the best team in Pennsylvania." 

One huge difference Sunday is the quarterbacks. Ben Roethlisberger, who was once one of the most-sacked quarterbacks in NFL history, rarely gets sacked anymore. Since 2015, he's been sacked less frequently than any other quarterback. 

This year, Roethlisberger has been sacked once every 23 attempts and Carson Wentz once every 12½ pass plays. 

"Oh yeah, it's going to be cool to see," Graham said. "They're going to be watching us as much as we're watching them. It's going to start on D, for sure."