Bigtime players make bigtime plays, and Pittsburgh Steelers third-year outside linebacker T.J. Watt continues to put himself further and further into the ‘bigtime player’ category. Coming off of his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2019, the youngest Watt brother in the NFL now has six sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception through seven games, well on his way to perhaps another Pro Bowl appearance.
This comes following a strong night of work against the Miami Dolphins, during which he registered two sacks, for second multiple-sack game of the season, with two forced fumbles on those sacks, recovering one of them himself. He also had three hits on the quarterback.
The game comes just a day after his older brother, J.J. Watt, suffered another season-ending injury, his third in the past four years. The future Hall of Famer had 24 tackles with four sacks and a forced fumble on the season, a year after finishing with 16 and seven to outdo T.J. But now the younger brother has to carry the banner on defense.
And J.J. is happy to watch his little brother dominate, from the comfort of his own home, as you may have seen his Tweets after each of T.J.’s sacks last night. It’s a tightknit family who really supports one another and grows together. One of the intangibles that the Steelers were attracted to when they drafted him.
The Steelers entered this game with the challenge of figuring out how to get into the backfield without Stephon Tuitt. Watt reminded that he is the best way to do it. He now leads the team outright with his six sacks and remains on-pace to have a career year. He currently ranks fifth in the AFC in sacks. His three forced fumbles are tied for second-most in the conference. He’s one of four players in the league with at least three forced fumbles and an interception.
If the Steelers are going to keep winning games this year, they are going to have to keep getting play like this from Watt. Even when he isn’t registering traditional statistics, he is making his presence felt and affecting the offense, particularly as a pass-rusher, as his frequent pressure forces negative plays.
The level of football intelligence displayed in his game rises evidently with each passing year, as well. We already saw his pass rush start to perk up during the second half of last season, but this year, and perhaps last night in particular, he really displayed forethought in his moves, setting up one pass rush with another and making the offensive tackle work against himself.
That’s what great players learn to do. They don’t just consistently dominate with their physical ability. They get opponents to beat themselves. Watt is now at the level where he is able to do that with relative consistency. And it’s right on time for a team that needs him to be that guy.