The Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Cleveland Browns Sunday at Heinz Field and that’s a game that outside linebacker T.J. Watt is probably really looking forward to. Watt has already played in three games against the Browns in his short NFL career and he’s posted quite an impressive stat line against Cleveland in the process.
In the three previous games that Watt has played in against the Browns, the Steelers 2017 first-round draft pick out of Wisconsin has registered 6 sacks, 8 total quarterback hits, 28 combined tackles and an interception on defense. If that’s not impressive enough, Watt also has a special team tackle to his credit against the Browns as well as a blocked field attempt, which happened in overtime of the team’s Week 1 road tie of Cleveland.
Two of the Browns staring offensive linemen, left guard Joel Bitonio and right tackle Chris Hubbard, both of whom already know quite a bit about Watt, commented on what makes the Steelers second-year outside linebacker such an effective player against their team when they both met with the local media earlier this week.
“He plays hard. He has size. He has the motor,” Bitonio said of Watt. “For some reason against us, the first three times we played him, he has gotten – not lucky because he plays hard and makes plays – but he has fallen into a few sacks and had some nice plays. He is a good player. He works hard. He is good with his hands for a younger player, and he is a tough guy to handle. He is definitely on our list of guys we want to try to shut down this week.”
As for Hubbard, who not only faced off against Watt quite frequently in the Week 1 game between the two teams, he also practiced against the Steelers outside linebacker a lot last season when he was still with Pittsburgh. He talked about what he’s seen out of Watt since he entered the NFL last season.
“Athletic guy,” Hubbard said of Watt. “I have been around him, so I know what to expect. He is a guy that is going to come out there and have his craft down as much as possible. He is going to work all game and have a motor the whole game.”
While I’m not going to spend too much time trying to find fault with six sacks registered by one Steelers player against one specific team, I do believe the six that Watt has already registered during his NFL career against the Browns do need a little contextualization. You can see all six of those sacks below and while Watt certainly did display great effort and a strong motor in ultimately getting to the Cleveland quarterback in each of them, only two of them were higher quality ones. In fact, probably only two of them happened within 5 seconds of the football being snapped.
Against the Browns this coming Sunday, it will not only be interesting to see if Watt can continue to add to his impressive statistics during that contest, but also do so in a higher quality fashion in the process, especially when it comes to potential sacks. Additionally, here’s to hoping Watt won’t need to save the Steelers another loss by blocking a Browns field goal attempt on Sunday.