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Around the AFC North: Steelers Winning With Ferocious Pass Rush

Steelers OLB T.J. Watt
Steelers OLB T.J. Watt

Pittsburgh Steelers: Potent Pass Rush is Blasting Quarterbacks

The Steelers gave Denver quarterbacks Drew Lock and Jeff Driskel a beatdown on Sunday, sacking them a combined seven times during a 26-21 victory in Pittsburgh's home opener.

Pittsburgh was expected to have one of the NFL's best defenses this season, but the pass rush has been even more ferocious than advertised. The Steelers lead the AFC with 10 sacks and had 19 quarterback hits against Denver, knocking Lock out of the game early with a shoulder injury. In Week 1 against the New York Giants, Pittsburgh sacked Daniel Jones three times and had eight hits on him.

Outside linebacker T.J. Watt leads the Steelers sack parade with 2 ½, but there are eight different Steelers with at least a half-sack. The variety of Pittsburgh's pass rush has made it more difficult to handle. Opponents know the rush is coming. But they can't be sure which players will bring the heat, especially when the Steelers decide to blitz.

"We'll bring anyone, and that's just a philosophical approach," Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin said via the Pittsburgh Tribune. "We're an attacking group."

The Steelers have at least one sack in 59 straight games, the longest streak in the NFL. In each of the last three seasons, Pittsburgh has either led the league lead in sacks or tied for the lead.

Tied with the Ravens (2-0) atop the AFC North, the Steelers will host the Houston Texans (0-2) in Week 3. After losing to the Ravens in Week 2, Houston will spend this week trying to figure out how to keep Deshaun Watson safe from the Steelers' pass rush.

Cleveland Browns: Beckham Remains Under Microscope

After the Ravens held Odell Beckham Jr. to just three catches for 22 yards in Week 1, the Cleveland Browns star wide receiver had a much better game (four catches, 74 yards, one touchdown) in Week 2 during a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

However, trade rumors surrounding Beckham resurfaced last week before ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the Browns had no plans to trade Beckham.

Beckham has four years remaining on his contract that reportedly pays him $15 million per season, but he hasn't been nearly as productive with the Browns as he was during his five seasons with the New York Giants. In 18 games with the Browns, Beckham has just two 100-yard games. During his last season with the Giants (2018), Beckham had five 100-yard games, and he made the Pro Bowl three straight years (2014-16).

Beckham's pregame warmup routine is still must-see, with his ability to make circus catches look easy.

However, Beckham and quarterback Baker Mayfield are still looking for the chemistry that Beckham had with Eli Manning during their time with the Giants. The Browns hope Mayfield's 43-yard touchdown connection with Beckham on Thursday night was a sign of more to come. The 1-1 Browns host Washington (1-1) on Sunday.

Cincinnati Bengals: Drew Sample Steps Up as New Starting Tight End

A torn Achilles suffered by Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah in Week 2 will thrust Drew Sample into a new role as Cincinnati's starting tight end. Sample responded well after Uzomah went down, and caught seven passes for 45 yards against Cleveland,[add] including a nice one-handed grab.

Sample was a second-round pick by the Bengals in 2019, so they believe he has the talent to be a productive starter. Though he feels ready for this opportunity, Sample also feels badly for Uzomah, who has 114 catches and eight touchdowns during his six seasons in Cincinnati.

"I'm gutted for him," Sample said, via "It's obviously a tough injury."

Sample reported to training camp stronger and in better shape, which should benefit him as his playing time increases. The Bengals (0-2) visit the Philadelphia Eagles (0-2) Sunday, and Sample believes his offseason work will pay off after missing the final eight games of 2019 with an ankle injury.

"The first thing was getting healthy, getting back to feeling explosive," Sample said. "I definitely was able to do that. That's been able to carry over into the season."

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