One year after leading the league by a wide margin in both tackles for loss and quarterback hits, and finishing tied for second in sacks, Pittsburgh Steelers’ star outside linebacker T.J. Watt is projected to give up the TFL crown in 2021, according to Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton.
Moton projected the stat leaders for the 2021 season in a July 1, breaking down the projected league leaders in passing yards, passing touchdowns, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, all-purpose yards, sacks, tackles for loss, and interceptions.
Watt is projected to lose out on the TFL crown to Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald in 2021, according to Moton’s projections.
Donald is projected to record 24 tackles for loss in 2021, which would be the second-highest total of his career, while Watt is projected to finish second with 22 tackles for loss, one less than the 2020 season. Moton’s reasoning is interesting, considering he knocks Watt for losing Bud Dupree opposite him, but doesn’t take into account that Donald lost longtime defense line running mate Michael Brockers via trade to the Detroit Lions, leaving him with veteran defensive end A’Shawn Robinson and young Sebastian Joseph-Day next to him.
“Everyone knows the Rams star wreaks havoc after the snap, but offensive linemen still struggle to slow him. Opposing teams may attempt to run the ball in an effort to avoid cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams on the perimeter, but Donald might force offensive coordinators to reconsider that approach,” Moton writes. “He takes the top spot over Pittsburgh Steelers edge-rusher T.J. Watt, who led the category last year with 23, because the latter may see extra attention following the departure of Bud Dupree.”
If the loss of Dupree is to make that much of an impact as Moton describes in terms of Watt seeing more attention, projecting him to have just one tackle for loss in 2021 than he did in 2020 doesn’t make much sense. Once Dupree went down in Week 11, Watt recorded six of his 23 tackles for loss down the stretch, even sitting out the Week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns. The All-Pro even added a tackle for loss in the playoffs, while Alex Highsmith played his part in place of Dupree, taking enough attention away from Watt with his two sacks, two tackles for loss and six quarterback hits in relief.
With the way the Steelers like to play defense, along with the number of high-level front seven talents the Steelers currently have, it’s hard to see how Watt will receive more attention than he already does snap-to-snap.