‘He gives us the ability to be free in the defence’: Riders’ DL Pete Robertson excelling as CFL sack leader

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Four weeks into the 2022 season, Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive lineman Pete Robertson is topping the CFL’s sack list.

The six-foot-two, 243-pound pass rusher recorded two sacks, two tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery to help the Riders earn a 41-20 win against the Montreal Alouettes in Week 4. The Longview, TX native has 10 tackles, seven sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries after four games in 2022.

The Texas Tech University product played his first year of CFL football in 2021 with the Riders. Robertson has already surpassed the five sacks he recorded in 11 games last year as a rookie. The pass rusher said there is no secret to his improvement, but he’s focusing on a couple personal attributes this season. 

“It’s about working hard and staying consistent,” said Robertson. “My biggest thing I wanted to do this year is to be consistent. And that’s the biggest thing in life to be successful. You have to be consistent and that’s my biggest thing right now.”

As much as Robertson is working on consistency individually, he said sack success comes from playing together as one. The defensive line isn’t just simply rushing, the back end of the defence is doing their job so plays can be made.

“I think the true help with me has been playing with the other guys on defence,” said Robertson.

The 29-year-old isn’t completely alone on the top sack artists board. Fellow Riders d-lineman Anthony Lanier II has five tackles and four sacks after four games to sit second in the three-down league in QB takedowns. 

As well as playing together for Saskatchewan this season and in 2021, Robertson and Lanier II both played together in the NFL with the Washington Football Team in 2017 and 2018. 

“That man is a great player,” said Robertson. “He plays hard, he comes in with his barking, the dog noise, but man he’s a heckuva player. I love playing beside him because I know at the end of the day, it don’t matter rain, sleet or snow, he’s gonna be buckled up and ready to go.”

Both Robertson and Lanier II have contributed to the Riders league-leading team total of 21 sacks. The next closest team to Saskatchewan is the Alouettes with 13 sacks, eight behind the green and white. 

“That’s a good defensive line. We’ve got a good defensive line coach in Ben Olson and I think the defence plays off of each other,” said head coach Craig Dickenson.

“The defensive backfield has to do their job to get the quarterback to hold onto the ball and that d-line group is constantly challenging themselves to get better.”

Robertson explained how defensive coordinator Jason Shivers has allowed the defence to dominate. Shivers has been with the Riders’ coaching staff since 2015 and was promoted to his current position in 2019. 

“He gives us the ability to be free in the defence, we don’t have to just be like a robot. He gives us the room to make plays and not be scared to make a play,” said Robertson.

“You gotta go out there and sacrifice certain things to make a play, sometimes you’re not gonna make all the tackles, but he’s gonna put you in a position to make plays. A lot of guys can play more than one position in his defence which is very exciting.”