One thought that has continued to plague me as the dust settles from Sunday’s defeat to the Baltimore Ravens is just how many positives are going to be overshadowed by this team’s poor performance. Make no mistake about it though, the shadow of disappointment casted over the Pittsburgh Steelers is a big one. The team is 1-4 and on pace for their first losing season since 2003, but a large portion of this team, especially on the defense have played better than what the record shows.
One player who continues to blossom before our very eyes is outside linebacker T.J. Watt. The former first round pick is off to another hot start, as he has recorded 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one interception through five games. Watt’s rise from raw athletic pass rusher to bona fide playmaker has been one of the best stories over the last three seasons.
Watt has not only moved out of the shadow of his brother and former Defensive Player of the Year in J.J. Watt but he has also managed to become as a household name. The Steelers linebacker’ has become one of the better pass rushers in the NFL over the last few years.
Since the 2018 season, Watt has recorded 16.5 sacks, the same amount that former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller has recorded during this time span. Only seven players have recorded more sacks than Watt since his second season, and the linebacker only trials the leader, Aaron Donald by five sacks.
While Watt is in similar company as the likes of Donald, Miller and his older brother, the one big difference is that while the others are veteran names, the Steelers’ linebacker is still just in the dawn of his career. Watt has just 36 NFL games under his belt and has already recorded 23.5 sacks, putting him at an unprecedented pace.
The Steelers are a decorated franchise known for their ability to get after the quarterback and yet no pass rusher has recorded more sacks than Watt through their first 36 games.
Most Sacks Through First 36 Games In Steelers History
T.J. Watt – 23.5
Keith Willis – 21
LaMarr Woodley – 17.5
Kendrell Bell – 16
Chad Brown – 16
Bud Dupree – 14.5
When Watt was selected in the first round by the Steelers in 2017, many hoped he would help the team turn a new leaf after the team’s prior first round pass rushers had disappointed. Watt has done more than that though, as he has not only become one of the league’s top pass rushers but he has become a star.
Pass rusher is not a term that does justice to Watt’s ability as he brings much more than just pass rushing ability to the Steelers’ defense. He is a trusted playmaker that has continued to impress this team game after game.
There was the vicious punch out fumble against the Seattle Seahawks and his early tone setting interception against the San Francisco 49ers. It seems that whenever the Steelers need a play, Watt typically delivers and the trust between the team and the linebacker was etched into stone week one, when the team choose Watt to communicate the defensive play calls to the defense.
It’s a shame that the Steelers’ poor showing may overshadow the many great individual performances this team has provided but Watt’s star has proved too bright to be ignored. While the Steelers may not be building towards much this season, Watt is currently building a case as one of the NFL’s most promising players.