Is it possible that Pittsburgh Steelers’ outside linebacker and reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt is the best non-quarterback in the NFL from a roster-building perspective?
It’s not that far-fetched, to be quite honest. Playing a premium position and being the best player at that position has Watt — who is already on a Hall of Fame trajectory — ranked as the top non-quarterback franchise cornerstone by Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport, who ranked the top 10 franchise cornerstones in the NFL Thursday.
Watt ranked sixth overall in the top 10, but was the first non-quarterback behind the likes of Los Angeles’s Justin Herbert, Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow, Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes. Watt edged out Cleveland’s Myles Garrett in the rankings, as well.
If you don’t have a franchise quarterback in today’s NFL, it’s best if you have an elite-level pass rusher to try and get after said quarterback. Safe to say the Steelers have that in abundance.
“Not only does he make it, but [T.J.] Watt is the highest-ranked defensive player of the lot. That’s what happens when you tie Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record with 22.5,” Davenport writes regarding Watt’s ranking in the franchise cornerstones piece. “Not only did Watt do that while logging 64 total tackles last year, but it also marked the fourth season in a row that the reigning Defensive Player of the Year amassed at least 13 sacks.”
As CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr recently pointed out, Watt is doing something as a pass rusher that not even the great Reggie White once did. Through five seasons of his illustrious career to date, Watt’s 0.94 sacks-per-game average is the highest in league history, as the Steelers’ star and Reggie White are the only players to have 13-plus sacks in four consecutive seasons (has 72 sacks in 77 career games), according to Kerr.
Only White (nine), Bruce Smith (seven) and Kevin Greene (six) have more 13-plus sack seasons than Watt. Additionally, Watt’s four 13-plus sacks in his first five seasons are tied with White for the most in NFL history.
Though he’s the oldest on the top 10 franchise cornerstone rankings at 28 years old, there’s no denying Watt’s greatness overall. Teams would love to have him as not only the face of their franchise, but the face of their defense and their build towards contention in today’s NFL. He wins consistently against double and triple teams and somehow finds a way to disrupt games week after week. It’s remarkable to watch.