Outside linebacker T.J. Watt for the Pittsburgh Steelers is one of the most exciting players in football, and also among the best. He leads the league in sacks with 16, in spite of the fact that he has missed two games, which is a franchise record for the Steelers as well. And he is coming off the most productive pass-rushing game of his career with 3.5 sacks, so it’s no wonder the Minnesota Vikings are talking about him.
Pittsburgh is out north right now to face the Vikings tonight for the latest rendition of Thursday Night Football. The Steelers are coming off of a last-minute win that pushed them above .500, the Vikings just the opposite, so one side will be wanting to further a trend, the other breaking it.
Watt has been good at foiling the plans that offensive coordinators have made in the past, and it’s clear that the Vikings, as do all of their opponents since the Cincinnati Bengals’ Bobby Hart opened his mouth, have a good deal of respect for him. Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer, formerly a Bengals defensive coordinator, discussed what makes the leader in the Defensive Player of the Year race so good.
“Number one he is smart, a great rusher, quick off the line of scrimmage”, he told reporters. “Good power. Then I think he sees things really well. Most great players have really good vision. They see a lot of different things. He fights through chips, understands where the protection is going, things like that”.
Watt does make a lot of his plays by keeping his eyes in the backfield and remaining disciplined, following the quarterback and taking advantage of the fact that the offensive linemen’s eyes can’t tell them what’s going on.
While he is athletically very talented, his study habits, work ethic, and drive are equally as integral in making him as good of a defender as he has developed into over the past five years, and which enabled him to be awarded the largest contract ever given to a defensive player in NFL history, in doing so breaking long-standing precedents for the Steelers’ front office, a recognition of just how special he is.
With 65.5 sacks in 72 games played, he is actually tied with his older brother, J.J. Watt, for the second-most sacks ever recorded at the same point in their respective careers—nobody will ever approach Reggie White’s 80 sacks in the same span, frankly.
In addition to his 16 sacks this season, Watt has also recorded 47 tackles, including a league-leading 16 for loss, with 26 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. He has forced 21 fumbles since his rookie season, along with 29 passes defensed and four interceptions. The only thing he really hasn’t done yet is score, but that feels like an inevitability, someday.