T.J. Watt forced eight fumbles last season. He also recovered four on his own, and he intercepted two passes. That was good for the fourth-most takeaways recorded in the NFL last season with six—tied with teammates Devin Bush and Joe Haden, among others, and trailing Minkah Fitzpatrick, who had eight on the season and seven during his 14 games with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
One of the big questions about the team heading into this season was whether or not they could continue to create turnovers the way that they did in 2019, when they led the league with 38 takeaways as a team (some of which were produced by the special teams units).
That was always going to be an unreasonable standard to uphold, not simply for the fact that turnovers can be a very fickle thing, but there are things you can do to help your team continue to take the ball away on the practice field.
Sometimes it also just takes great football players, and Watt got his season off to a good start against the New York Giants on Monday night football in the turnover department, recording his fourth-career interception by picking off Daniel Jones in the second quarter.
The play came with 12:40 to go in the second quarter, the Giants with a first and 10 on their own 35-yard line after the Steelers were forced to punt. Dustin Colquitt punted inside the 20, but a good return thanks to missed tackles put them there.
On first down, the Giants were showing a heavy set on Watt’s right side with two tight ends. Reading that, he read a quick slant and dropped into coverage after coming forward initially, and he proceeded to make a great athletic play to secure the ball.
The Steelers were able to capitalize on this great field position, starting at New York’s 36-yard line, resulting in a seven-yard drive that wound up in the end zone, Ben Roethlisberger connecting with JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 10-yard score, which made it 10-9 at the time, Pittsburgh going ahead by the end of the quarter.
Watt would ultimately have a fairly modest game on the stat sheet, including a rare failure to enter the sack column, although he was able to generate pressure throughout the night. Aside from the interception, he registered an additional pass defensed on a pass rush and a tackle for loss.
Outside of the takeaway, his stat line doesn’t look like the most impressive in the world, but that should simply serve as a reminder of how misleading statistics can be. Terrell Edmunds led the team with nine tackles, for example, but he was not the best player on the field.