It should not be understated how significant is the growth, development, and health of the pair of T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree this season to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ success. Without their persistent, consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, not to mention their stout run defense, this is a sub-.500 team, of that I have no doubt.
What the two of them have been doing to offensive tackles this year is just rude. They are very much in the conversation as the best edge rush tandem in the NFL, with both in the top 15 in the league in sacks, Watt himself in the top five, and the first in the AFC.
For the sixth time this season, both of them recorded at least one sack in the same game on Sunday. Both of them also had a strip sack, with Dupree’s being recovered. The latter also had a multi-sack game for the second time this season, and just the third of his career.
As for Watt, he has now recorded at least half a sack in nine consecutive games, but that’s something that we can talk about more later. He has 12.5 now on the season, just half a sack behind his mark from a year ago, which was good enough to get him into the Pro Bowl, and he has four more games to get there.
Dupree now has eight and a half sacks after getting a sack and a half against Baker Mayfield on Sunday. His previous career high was six. With four games remaining, he has a legitimate shot at reaching double digits before the year is through.
Significantly, Sunday’s game also allowed the duo to cross a significant milestone, one that hasn’t been reached in Pittsburgh in quite a while. The two have combined to put up 21 sacks this season. They are the first pair of outside linebackers to reach 20 or more sacks combined since 2010.
That year, James Harrison put up 10.5 sacks, and LaMarr Woodley had 10 himself. Watt and Dupree came close to the mark last year, combining for 18.5, but that was relying largely on Watt’s 13 sacks. Dupree only had 5.5.
That was the closest any duo had come since 2010. Even the year after that, Harrison and Woodley each only put up nine sacks, though both of them missed at least five games that year, so it’s likely that they probably would have put up 20 sacks together once again. But they combined for just 10 in 2012.
Equally notable is the fact that both Dupree and Watt are making the most of their sacks. Combined, they have forced nine fumbles this year, and I believe something like eight of them have been on sacks. Watt also had six forced fumbles a year ago, so this is a continuation of where he left off. He is obviously in the Steelers’ long-term plans. Can they find a way to keep Dupree as well?