No Turning Down For T.J. Watt As He Continues To State Case As Elite Defender

The Pittsburgh Steelers are having a hell of a resurgence in the middle of their season, riding a four-game winning streak, and it’s coming on the backs of the defense’s elite players. Yes, the Steelers defense now has elite players, arguably three and counting, in Cameron Heyward, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and perhaps the best of the group, third-year outside linebacker T.J. Watt.

Once again, Watt was a presence against the Los Angeles Rams, recording a multiple-sack game for the third week in a row, and he now has at least half a sack in six straight games. I’m going to have to do some research on when the last time that’s happened for the Steelers in a more thorough review of what he’s doing.

But tonight, he had two more, including his third strip sack and fourth total forced fumble of the season. Watt is now at nine and a half sacks on the year, with 22.5 since the start of the 2018 season, and 10 forced fumbles.

With each passing week, he puts himself closer and closer to being in the discussion for the Defensive Player of the Year Award, even if that is a tall task. There are others with more sacks, to be sure, but with four forced fumbles, three recoveries, and an interception—plus his consistent pressure and a number of tackles for loss—the case is being made.

He finished today’s game with five tackles, the two sacks among them, both for losses of eight yards. He had multiple run stops, including a keeper by Blake Bortles on third and two that forced the Rams to ultimately attempt a fake punt, a pass thrown by Johnny Hekker that was intercepted by Trey Edmunds, because that’s just the kind of game this was.

Watt has reached levels in his performance where you can’t even get an accurate picture of his impact on the game by looking at the stat sheet, because there is so much that he does that influences the outcomes of plays for which he gets no credit.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with his stat line, to be sure, and with one more half a sack over the course of the next seven games, he will become the first Steelers defender to record multiple 10-sack seasons in a row since both James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley did it for three straight years from 2008 through 2010.

The Steelers absolutely need their star defenders, particularly Watt, I would argue, to play at this dynamic, game-changing level if they truly intend to live up to their playoff ambitions this year. The offense desperately needs James Conner back and a more stable presence in the run game.

If this were any other year in the past eight or so years and the offense was playing at this level, the team would be lucky to have one or two wins. This year, thanks to Watt and company, they have a winning record.

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