The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Before he retires, T.J. Watt will bring the Steelers’ single-season sack record.
Explanation: Mike Merriweather held the Steelers’ single-season sack record with 15 for over two decades before James Harrison broke it by one in 2008. They are the only two players in team history to have recorded more than 14 sacks in a single season.
There are two big factors playing into Watt’s favor in terms of breaking this record. For one thing, he is still developing as a pass rusher. He has spoken about this fact on a number of occasions already this offseason, but he really felt that he was only starting to come on in this department over the final month and a half of last season.
And he still managed to get 13 sacks, which is already tied for the seventh-most in a single season in team history, and the most by a Steeler since LaMarr Woodley recorded 13 and a half sacks in 2009. It was just the fourth season of this century for the team with at least 13 sacks.
The other major factor at play is the fact that the league is passing more than ever before, so that is going to translate into more opportunities for sacks. If Watt is going to get 450-500 chances to rush the passer, or even more, depending on how often he is asked to drop, then the record could be in his sights over the next few years.
The advantage of developing your game in the middle of the season is that your opponents are not going to have a lot of time or tape on your new moves. The disadvantage is that they are going to have the offseason to prepare and adjust the next year.
In addition to that, it’s also important to consider the fact that while Watt rushed the passer much better in the second half of the season, more of his sacks came in the first half. Sacks are a tricky thing, and getting better at rushing the passer does not automatically correlate to getting more of them.