No doubt it varies from team to team, and it can depend a lot on what their situation at the time might be, but generally speaking, teams don’t particularly like it when history is made against them. The Denver Broncos earlier this season, for example, weren’t happy with the Baltimore Ravens when the latter ran a play at the end of the game to manufacture a 100-yard game in order to tie an NFL record for the most consecutive such games in NFL history.
Today, it’s the Ravens who are staring at the other side of history, as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ T.J. Wat has a very legitimate chance of setting a new all-time NFL single-season record in sacks. He comes into the day with 21.5, needing only one to tie the record. Anything more than that would break it. So is that something they’re paying special attention to in avoiding?
“I think everybody has had special plans for him going into the game”, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman said last week. “And you better, because if you don’t, he’s really going to eat you up. I think, what, he had four sacks the other night? So, we’re definitely going to pay special attention to him”.
Watt is, in fact, coming off a career-high four-sack game, in which he racked up his total on the season from 17.5 to 21.5. And he had 3.5 sacks the last time he faced Baltimore earlier this year, which was at the time a career high. They went out of their way then to keep him from Lamar Jackson, but he even got a sack against a triple team when Jackson flushed up out of the pocket.
“He plays hard, knows how to play the game, knows angles, knows how to create angles”, Roman said of the Steelers’ All-Pro. “He has a really good move set with his hands, really good head fakes, et cetera. He’s just a really talented, good football player that is having an amazing season. So, I think we’ll be up to the challenge. It will be a challenge; it always is with him”.
But they’re not about to forget about the Steelers’ other pass rushers, either, such as Alex Highsmith, who had two sacks last week as well, and Cameron Heyward, who is one sack away from his second 10-plus-sack season. He would be just the second defensive lineman in team history with more than one, joining Keith Willis.
Of course, when it comes to Watt’s season, even with how productive he’s been—he also leads the league in hits and is tied with Micah Parsons in tackles for loss—the question is still how much more he could have done if he’d been healthy. He missed two games outright due to injury, and large stretches of other games, and has generally played injured almost all year. Even now he’s playing with potentially cracked ribs.