The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: T.J. Watt will outperform J.J. Watt for the first game they are ever on the field together.
Explanation: Today marks the first time in the lives of T.J. Watt and his oldest brother J.J. in which they will have the opportunity to participate competitively in the same game. While the Steelers played the Texans recently, J.J. was injured for that game. While J.J. is still a high-quality player, T.J. has more than established himself at this point as well, and both are cornerstones of their respective defenses.
Nobody is getting into the backfield the way T.J. is right now. He is the only player in the NFL who is beating his man at the line of scrimmage nearly a third of the time. J.J. has two sacks coming into today’s game, but he is not generating the same level of play-to-play performance.
And the Steelers have a better front four and blitzing scheme that does a better job of putting T.J. in position to make plays. Additionally, their offensive line is better than that of the Texans’, which has allowed Deshaun Watson to be sacked eight times in the first two weeks.
Even if T.J. manages more sacks, which isn’t a guarantee, a lot more goes into it than that. J.J. is one of the strongest interior defenders in the NFL and is capable of taking over games. And he’s going up against David DeCastro coming back from a knee injury and Chukwuma Okorafor still new to the lineup.
While Watson does take his fair share of sacks—perhaps more than his fair share—Roethlisberger gets the ball out quickly, so actual productivity numbers don’t necessarily directly translate into determining who performed better.
Neither one of them actually have particularly high tackle totals. T.J. does have an interception. But really, any measure of determining who performed better than the other, unless it’s clear and obvious, will have to come down to actually watching the tape and seeing what impact they truly had on the game.