Study: How Does TJ Watt Win On Third Down?

We’ve been moving right along with our Steelers’ EDGE rush study, breaking down Derrek Tuszka and Alex Highsmith’s pass rush moves and success rate on the money downs, third and fourth down. Today, we’re tackling T.J. Watt and see what moves he liked the most and were most successful in pulling off.

I’ve gone through and charted all of his third and fourth down rushes last season. They’re categorized by his most to least frequent moves, how often he won, and his success rate. We included a total at the bottom for him, too. Here’s what I charted.

Pass Rush Move Rush Attempts Rush Wins Rush Win %
Rip 36 25 69.4%
Bull/Rip 29 9 31.3%
Contain 19 3 15.8%
Stunt (Crasher) 17 5 29.4%
Swim 10 5 50%
Swipe 7 4 57.1%
Cross Chop 6 3 50%
Club 5 1 20%
Chop 3 2 66.7%
N/A (RPO/Screen) 3 N/A N/A
Interior Rush 3 0 0%
Spin (Inside) 2 0 0%
Dip 1 1 100%
TOTAL 138 58 42.0%


*If you’re wondering why the rush attempts don’t add up, the N/A rushes are not included in the total. They are simply added in the chart for context and data as to how often those N/A moments occurred.

As you’d expect from a guy with 22.5 sacks, really high success numbers. Don’t confuse that with a 42% pressure rate, it wasn’t that high, but this is him beating the block. Comparatively, it’s much higher than Highsmith, who won 24% of the time.

The most incredible number here comes with his top move, his rip. Success rate off the charts, winning nearly 70% of the time. Incredible. The Bills’ opener and second game against the Browns were his best games using his rip move. It’s one of the best moves in the game.

Everything else is a bit calmer. Watt leans most on his rip and bull but has an array of other moves to mix in as change-ups. Some it varied by the time of year. For example, his two spins came late in the season, though he’s not as good with them as Alex Highsmith. Watt’s swim and swipe are overall effective; his swim is mostly an inside move into the B gap in the hopes the guard is sliding away.

Though Pittsburgh will sometimes move their linebackers around and play off-ball, Watt and Highsmith each had just three interior rushes. On these important downs, they want these guys on the edge. On far fewer chances, Derrek Tuszka lined up as an interior rusher twice.

Pittsburgh does twist and stunt quite a bit. Overall, their stunts have not been incredibly effective and could be something the team should limit in these situations.

Excluding contain and stunt situations, when Watt is 1v1 and can pick his move, Watt’s success rate is a whopping 49%, essentially winning half his rushes. I don’t have data to compare that to anyone outside of Highsmith and Tuszka but that is an incredible win rate. Perhaps only Aaron Donald wins as often as Watt does.

Watt is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and now second-highest-paid defender in football, so seeing him dominate isn’t that surprising. But it’s valuable to put an additional layer of context to his numbers to demonstrate how good he is.

To Top
error: Alert: Content is protected !!