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2021 South Side Questions: Will T.J. Watt Set A New Single-Season Sack Record?

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 NFL single-season sack record in the Steelers’ finale against the Baltimore Ravens?

Following a career game in which he posted four sacks, T.J. Watt is now on the cusp of making history. With 21.5 sacks, he is only one more sack away from tying the NFL all-time single-season sack record owned by Michael Strahan, with 22.5 sacks. Three players have 22 sacks, so he stands fifth all-time right now.

The only three games this season in which Watt did not post a sack were games in which he was injured or in which he left with an injury. He has posted multiple sacks in eight of the 14 games in which he has played this year, or in eight of the 10 in which he has played at least 60 percent of the snaps.

And the Steelers’ final opponent is a juicy one. It’s the Baltimore Ravens, who actually pass the ball now. They have allowed 54 sacks this year, the most in the NFL, and have given up a sack on about 8.5% of their dropbacks, the third-highest ratio in the league.

And they may be starting an injured Lamar Jackson, who has missed the past three games due to an ankle injury. How mobile do you think he’s going to be on a bad ankle? He has taken at least two sacks in all but one game in which he played more than 10 snaps, and has been sacked at least once in every game. The Steelers sacked him seven times earlier this year, with Watt having 3.5, which was a career-high until he just set a new career-high on Monday. Maybe he’ll get five sacks this weekend and blow the old record out of the water.

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