2021 South Side Questions: Will T.J. Watt Break NFL Single-Season Sack Record?

T.J. Watt

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.

They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.

There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.

Question: Will T.J. Watt break the single-season sack record?

The sack became an official statistic in 1982. Since then, nobody has recorded more in a single season than has Michael Strahan, who with the New York Giants in 2001 finished with 22.5 sacks. Three others, most recently Justin Houston in 2014, have recorded 22. Twelve players have recorded at least 20.

The Steelers’ T.J. Watt currently has 16 sacks during the 2021 season, despite missing two games. He has five games left to play. His next sack will set the all-time franchise record for sacks in a single season. Will he record seven more sacks over the final five games and set a new NFL record, as well?

There has only been one five-game span during this season, beginning from any one game and ending four games later, in which Watt did not record at least seven sacks. That would be from Week 2 to Week 8 (with a bye and a game missed in between), during which span he recorded 6.5 sacks.

If you start at any other game as the beginning point of a five-game span, he will have recorded at least seven sacks. In his last five games, currently, he has nine sacks, with three multi-sack games. He has recorded at least a sack and a half in six of 10 games this season, only being shut out of any sacks twice.

Taken from that perspective, it’s a good sign, of course, but past results do not predict, let alone guarantee, future production. He still has his work cut out for him to average more than one sack per game over the rest of the season. He’s never finished a season with more sacks than games played. Sixteen is already his career high after recording 15 in 15 games a year ago.

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