TJ Watt should probably tweak what I’ve quoted in the headline. The three-headed monster that is himself, Alex Highsmith, and Melvin Ingram isn’t “going to be really special.” It’s already really special. Especially when they have the kinds of performances they did Sunday afternoon. Watt, Highsmith, and Ingram bullied the Buffalo Bills’ offensive line from start to finish. And there’s 16 more games of that to go.
After the game, Watt talked about the group.
“The three-man rotation that we have with Alex and Melvin is going to be really special,” he told reporters via the team’s YouTube channel. “We’re a very unselfish group. That’s why I’m looking forward to playing with both of them.”
All three of the Steelers’ EDGE rushers made impact plays. Watt had the prettiest stat line with five QB hits and two sacks, showing zero rust of missing all but the past few days of team practices. Ingram had a tackle for loss, a pass deflection, and QB hit, while Highsmith *only* had four tackles but gave talented LT Dion Dawkins all he could handle.
Buffalo resorted to holding on for dear life – literally – and were flagged numerous times (with others going unseen/uncalled). For the day, the Bills were flagged eight times for 82 yards. They had no answer for the Steelers’ pass rush.
TJ Watt – 5 QB hits, 2 sacks
Melvin Ingram – 1 TFL, 1 PD, 1 QB hit
Alex Highsmith – 4 tackles (and played even better than the numbers show)
Good luck, offensive tackles. You're gonna need it. #Steelers
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) September 12, 2021
That rotation kept all three fresh throughout the game. That was key with Watt still not at 100% conditioning and Highsmith battling some sort of groin injury during the week. Considering how often Buffalo possessed the ball in this game, winning the time of possession battle 33 minutes to 26, keeping Watt, Highsmith, and Ingram fresh was all the more important.
Ultimately, the Steelers sacked Josh Allen three times after dropping him just twice in their combined two meetings across 2019 and 2020. Pittsburgh’s defense has the makings of being a top three defense in football. Potentially the best defense in football. And if they wind up there by season’s end, it’ll be in large part because of the three guys rushing off the edge.