T.J. Watt got to Ryan Tannehill on the Tennessee Titans’ opening drive of the second half. It was his fifth (full) sack of the season. And it was the 40th sack of his four-year career. With that sack, he broke a Pittsburgh Steelers record for the most sacks in a player’s first four seasons—and he has another 10 games to go.
The previous record holder was non other than LaMarr Woodley, who had a fantastic run with James Harrison in the late 00s and early 10s. He record 39 sacks in his first four seasons, and nobody else had more than 30.5 (Joey Porter) and 30 (Chad Brown).
Of course, Watt has been a starter for his entire career, which can’t be said for Woodley, who had only four of his 39 sacks as a rookie in zero starts. Over his next three seasons, he accumulated 35 sacks, averaging nearly 12 sacks per season.
Watt recorded seven sacks as a rookie before elevating to 13 in his second season, making the Pro Bowl. He followed that up by performing at a first-team All-Pro level in 2019 and recorded 14.5 sacks. One of only five players in Steelers history to record at least 14 sacks in a single season, and the third-most in team history behind James Harrison’s 16 in 2008 and Mike Merriweather’s 15 in 1984.
That sack against the Titans also allowed Watt to regain the current team lead in sacks after his battery mate, Bud Dupree, recorded two last week to give him five in the first five games of the season—which was the best start to a season in his career.
Watt, on the other hand, is not unfamiliar with fast starts. He recorded two sacks in his first career game, and had four in his first six games. He had three in the season opener in 2018 and six in his first six games. Last year, he had four sacks in the first six games, and six in the first seven. In fact, he had a nine-game streak in which he recorded at least half a sack, and a six-game streak with at least one full sack.
So far this season, he has had two games in which he did not record a sack, though he was still gaining plenty of pressure. He has also recorded a sack in four of his six games, including 2.5 sacks in week two.
On the day, the Steelers only managed two sacks, Vince Williams adding one later in the game, the first time this season they had been held to fewer than three, but they continue to lead the NFL now with 26 sacks through six games. They are on pace for 69 sacks, which would shatter the team record of 56, but would fall three short of the NFL record.
As for Watt, with 5.5 sacks in six games, he is on pace to come close to 16 on the season, which is of course what we have come to expect. He had 13 in 2018 and then 14.5 last year. The team record, as noted, is 16, so he is in position to make a run at it yet again—and presumably for the next 5-10 years as well.