One last look at what happened Week 17 against the Cleveland Browns. Thought it was one of T.J. Watt’s best games vs the run and on the whole, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense did a great job shutting the ground game down. Let’s go through three plays where Watt really stuck out.
First play. Watt lined up at ROLB against the TE. Tight end drops his head off the ball and Watt counters with a quick swim move over the top, all while keeping his eyes on the ball and knowing where the running is trying to go. Burst to squeeze him and make the tackle as Isaiah Crowell crosses the LOS and he only nets a short three yard gain. Couple other Steelers got stuck on blocks and there was a hole for Crowell until Watt shut it down. Quick, efficient, and the finish. This is really good.
Next. We saw him use his quickness before. Now we see his strength. This time, LOLB, matched up on RT Shon Coleman. Good hand placement, punch, and lower leg drive to walk the tackle back. Crowell is forced to try to bounce it wide, slows up because Vince Williams is forcing him inside (nice scrape over the top vs the zone run) and Watt is able to shed and make the ankle tackle.
Finally, good IQ to win. Safety rolls down to his side, Watt lined up at LOLB. He times the snap by shuffling down a gap right before Deshone Kizer hikes it. From the outside shoulder to head up, looking to cross Coleman’s face and shoot the B gap (Williams is again scraping). Crosses Coleman’s face, who now can’t reach him, and again squeezes Crowell down the line, getting his inside arm free and making the tackle.
In just those three plays, we’re seeing Watt win in all three areas. With his quickness and athleticism, his strength, and his football IQ and instincts. All results in positive plays for the Steelers’ run defense. Facing a Jacksonville Jaguars team who is going to rely on their run game to get the ball downfield, Watt’s going to need to make more plays like these Sunday afternoon.
With these run stops and a sack, it was a heck of a way to cap a successful rookie season.