For a game in which the Pittsburgh Steelers won, it does not appear that many people are all too happy with the specifics of how things went down. But there was at least the bright spot of a solid debut performance for rookie first-round draft pick T.J. Watt, who put together a nice stat sheet for himself.
Officially, the rookie recorded six tackles on the day to go along with two sacks and an interception. He is reportedly only the third player in NFL history to debut with two sacks and an interception in the first game he has ever played.
Admittedly, a lot of the Steelers’ pressure that they were able to generate on the day—and the sacks in particular—owe a lot to going up against a rookie quarterback making the first start of his NFL career and lacking an understanding of when he needs to get rid of the ball.
Certainly Watt’s second of two sacks on the day is attributable to DeShone Kizer failing to realize that it was time for him to throw the ball away. But on the first sack, he did get around Joe Thomas at right tackle, and he showed many encouraging signs as a pass rusher. He recorded two other hurries in addition to his sacks, according to Pro Football Focus.
And his interception was an athletically impressive effort as well, showing strong leaping ability and sure hands to pluck the ball out of the air as Kizer looked to float it over the defender’s head. Perhaps it was a poor decision coupled by poor execution from the rookie, but it was his skill that ultimately gained the Steelers a turnover.
Watt’s first tackle of the day actually came on special teams, bringing down fellow rookie Jabrill Peppers on a punt return following a nine-yard gain. But each of his first three tackles on the defensive side of the ball went for ‘stops’ in the run game, or plays that were unsuccessful for the offense. He was also credited with a primary tackle on a screen pass that was blown up for a loss of five yards.
It might be worth noting that Watt’s interception came just one play after he cost the Steelers field position. Anthony Chickillo notched a sack on the previous play that would have made it second and 18 from the Steelers’ 44, but he was called for a late hit on the quarterback.
He picked off the next pass at the 17 and returned it to the 34, preventing the Browns from scoring on that drive. And the offense nearly turned around to register a score of their own, by ultimately ended up giving it back on an interception.
All in all, initial impressions leave nothing to complain about when it comes to Watt’s first game. Chickillo deserves credit as well for stepping up in place of Bud Dupree, matching Watt’s two sacks on a seven-sack day for the defense.