This surely won’t come to you as a shock, but T.J. Watt is the highest-graded player for the Pittsburgh Steelers so far through the first 10 games of the 2019 season by Pro Football Focus. The outlet recently published an article listing the highest-graded player on each team, listed in order of the highest grade, and Watt’s grade of 91.0 placed eighth.
“Watt has truly been lights out this season”, the article reads. “He leads all edge defenders with at least 200 total defensive snaps in overall grade (91.0) and pass-rush grade (91.6). He also ranks fifth in pass-rush win rate (21.0%) among edge defenders with at least 150 pass-rush snaps in Weeks 1-10”.
Only three teams’ top-graded players ahead of the Steelers are defensive players, with Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams being the highest in third at 92.9. Calais Campbell and Marcus Williams ranked sixth and seventh with a grade of 91.5.
Watt became the first Steeler since 2010 to record double-digit sacks in consecutive seasons when he took down Baker Mayfield one time during the team’s Thursday night loss to the Cleveland Browns. It was the seventh consecutive game of the season in which he had a sack, but it broke up a three-game streak in which he had multiple sacks as well.
On the season, he now has 10.5 sacks, which as of the time of this writing is the third-most in the NFL, with both Chandler Jones and Shaquil Barrett tied atop the standings at 11.5 sacks. Watt also has a game in-hand on them because he played on Thursday, however.
The third-year edge defender also has 35 tackles on the season, including nine for a loss. His 24 quarterback hits are the most in the NFL, and he also has caused four fumbles, recovering three fumbles in total, and recording an interception as well. He has 10 forced fumbles since the start of the 2018 season.
If Watt continues to average a sack per game over the final six weeks, then he will break the single-season franchise record for sacks, which is currently held by James Harrison. The retired edge defender recorded 16 sacks in 2008, the first season in a three-year run in which both he and LaMarr Woodley posted 10 or more sacks, they both also had nine sacks apiece in 2011.
At this point, it seems very likely that he will be heading to another Pro Bowl. Unlike the 2018 season, however, he may this time get in by being voted in directly, rather than as an alternate. The growth that he has taken since the middle of last year is really quite striking, and you’re starting to hear opposing coaches talk about him as one of the players they have to prepare for thoroughly.