If they lined up to run the 40, T.J. Watt would dust Cam Heyward. That’s just a fact.
But in the battle to become the Pittsburgh Steelers’ all-time sack leader, Heyward currently has the slight edge.
As things stand today, James Harrison remains the franchise’s leader with 80.5 sacks. Heyward sits second with 78.5 while Watt’s tied for fourth with 77.5, equaling Joe Greene and a half-sack behind third place L.C. Greenwood. Accounting for official and unofficial history, here’s the current top five:
Steelers’ All-Time Sack Leaders
1. James Harrison – 80.5
2. Cam Heyward – 78.5
3. L.C. Greenwood – 78.0
4. Joe Greene – 77.5
4. T.J. Watt – 77.5
Heading into 2022, it felt like a guarantee Watt would break the record, perhaps even before the bye week. But a Week 1 pec injury put the kibosh on those plans. Instead of shattering the record, he finished the year with only 5.5 sacks, leaving him still looking up at the top of the leaderboard.
Heyward had another highly productive season, becoming only the second Steelers’ defensive lineman ever to record consecutive 10+ sack seasons, joining the underrated John Baker of the 60s. Perhaps Watt is partially to thank, the attention he commands, 8.5 of Heyward’s 10.5 sacks came with Watt in the lineup, but the numbers are the numbers. Heyward overtook Watt and is now just 2.5 sacks away from outright ownership of the Steelers’ record. Watt sits three away.
So who gets there first? Both players are capable of putting sack numbers up in bunches. T.J. Watt has 16 career games with 2+ sacks, second-most in *official* team history, while Heyward has eleven. The two work in tandem to attack the quarterback. Heyward can bull rush and collapse the pocket, flushing the quarterback to the edges and into Watt’s lap. Or Watt’s ability to win the corner causes quarterbacks to hitch and climb into Heyward’s arms.
With how talented both players are and with how close the numbers sit, it could genuinely go either way. And it could happen in a game. Heyward picking up two quick sacks or Watt going on a tear against some poor, overmatched right tackle. The dude has five career games of 3+ sacks so it’s hardly out of the question.
Of course, we know Watt will eventually occupy the top spot and do laps around the rest of the field. Even if Heyward gets there first, Watt will soon enough surpass him. But you can bet two hyper-competitive guys like Heyward and Watt are chomping to be the first to break Harrison’s mark. Heyward, especially, so he can at least temporarily claim fame to that #1 spot.
Both guys are team-first and they care about wins more than anything else. But you can bet this will be a talking point heading into next season and a race we’ll be watching.