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 break the Steelers’ single-season sack record in 2021.
Explanation: After recording 14.5 sacks in 2019 and then 15 sacks (in 15 games) last year, Watt has been toying with the Steelers’ single-season sack record of 16 for years now. With the regular season now 17 games, is it just a matter of time before he gets to at least 16.5?
There’s nobody better in the NFL at consistently getting to the quarterback right now, and Watt has only continued to get better. He should be better in 2021 than he was even last year, when he clearly should have won the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
For starters, he’s a guy who doesn’t need help, and he’s not going to be competing with Bud Dupree for sacks this time around, now that Dupree’s in Tennessee. He has already defied trends of averages and regression to the mean.
And then he has an extra game on top of everything else. There’s no reason at all that he can’t record a sack every game, and that alone would be enough to hit the mark. Plus, after being snubbed two years in a row, he’s not going to let another award slip by.
While he might not necessarily need help, it certainly won’t do Watt any favors to lose Dupree. And sacks are an unstable statistic. You can be great rushing the passer but not have the sack total to show it, like Cameron Heyward last year. He only had four sacks, but was still an All-Pro. Watt has been somewhat fortunate to record 13-plus sacks in three straight years, already a first in franchise history.
He will probably eventually hit the mark, but it won’t be this year. Not in this transitional phase while the defense figures out its secondary, which has been critical over this stretch in helping to buy their pass rushers that needed extra time to get to the quarterback.