As far as I’m aware, for most of NFL history, the league placed little stock in forced fumbles, and instead valued fumbles recovered. To my knowledge, there are no official statistics recorded for forced fumbles for the vast majority of NFL history, and Pro Football Focus only goes back to the late eighties.
With all that said, however, so far as I can tell—and somebody please correct me if I’m wrong—with his eighth forced fumble of the season yesterday, T.J. Watt set a franchise record for the most fumbles forced in a single season.
Even the Pittsburgh Steelers’ media guide has no records of forced fumbles. There is an acknowledgement in Watt’s entry that his six forced fumbles in 2018 were tied for the second-most by the team since 1994, though even that is not quite correct, because James Harrison recorded seven forced fumbles twice, in consecutive seasons.
With his six last year and eight this year, though, Watt has tied Harrison for the most forced fumbles over a two-season span in team history, to the best of my knowledge, in addition to setting the record for the most forced fumbles in a single season, going back to at least the early 1990s.
Quite frankly, I don’t know if there is anybody who has compiled forced fumble numbers for earlier seasons in NFL history the way others have done, for example, for tackles. Even numbers for sacks prior to 1982 are incomplete, though some teams have gone back and kept their own records, even if they are officially unofficial.
Regardless of the actuality of the situation, the reality is that Watt has forced 14 fumbles over the course of his past 32 games, and that’s quite remarkable in any era of football. He not only has 27.5 sacks in that span, but has produced forced fumbles—the majority of them strip sacks—at a highly productive rate.
In addition to forcing eight fumbles, Watt also recovered four this season, and to go along with two interceptions, his six total takeaways were among the highest in the league, along with Devin Bush and Minkah Fitzpatrick, his teammates.
He may only be in his third season, but the way he is already playing, it’s hard to envision Watt getting much better with time. If he isn’t already at the top of his game, then he is going to be more than a handful to deal with for opposing offenses in 2020, already a strong Defensive Player of the Year candidate in 2019.