Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: OLB T.J. Watt
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: T.J. Watt became the first Steeler to lead the league in sacks for a single season in franchise history. Though it wasn’t the single highest total in team history, he still had inarguably one of the best years for an edge defender by a Steelers player of all time, and was arguably snubbed for a second year in a row for the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
T.J. Watt finished the 2020 season with 53 tackles, 23 tackles for loss, 15 sacks, 41 quarterback hits, an interception, seven passes defensed, and two forced fumbles. That’s a pretty full stat line, with few feats that he didn’t manage to accomplish.
It might not have been enough in the eyes of those who make the decision to put him over the edge in favor of Aaron Donald, who was voted the Defensive Player of the Year for the third time (making him the second player ever to do it, tied with T.J.’s brother, J.J. Watt), but so it is.
Over the course of the past three years, Watt has compiled 176 tackles, including 49 for loss, with 42.5 sacks, 98 hits, three interceptions, 18 passes defensed, 16 forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries. I’m sure those numbers rival anybody in the league.
While his 2020 season was perhaps a little less splashy on the takeaway front, there is only so much you can do to control forced fumbles and interceptions, and the fact that he already has multiple seasons with six or more forced fumbles shows it’s very much something in his repertoire.
Outside of the takeaway production, Watt was a much more solid and consistent player from play to play, clearly at the height of his powers, and yet still with the potential to be even better as he heads into his fifth season in the NFL this year.
It’s a safe bet that he will do so with a whole bunch more money, because he’s due for a very lucrative contract extension before the 2021 season gets underway.