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T.J. Watt Details Key To Steelers Turnaround

The Pittsburgh Steelers have flipped the script on their season. Literally. 2-6 before the bye, 6-2 since. And if they can pick up one more win, they just might make one of the most improbable playoff runs in NFL history. For T.J. Watt, he’s living in the moment but reflecting on the changes the team has made since hitting rock bottom.

“Defensively, stopping the run and making tackles,” Watt said as tweeted by The Trib’s Chris Adamski. “Creating splash. Offensively, we’ve been able to possess the football. Keep the defense off the field. When we’re on the field, we’re able to get stops. That’s just the key to it all.”

Pittsburgh’s defense has been far better since the bye. They’ve only allowed more than 17 points in one of those games, a 37-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, and have played lockdown defense in the second half. They shut out the Las Vegas Raiders in the third and fourth quarter of their Week 16 win while holding the Baltimore Ravens to just three points last Sunday night. Their run defense has tightened up in dramatic ways. The Carolina Panthers had zero running room in Week 15, Josh Jacobs was held to his worst output of the year in Week 16, and the Steelers minimized a potent Ravens’ run game last week. And they have 11 takeaways since the bye compared to ten before it, half of which came in their Week One opener against Cincinnati.

Of course, Watt’s return has been key. Missing the first half of the season with a pec injury sustained in Week One, he’s battled injuries even since returning but has still demanded attention from opposing offensive lines, giving teammates more 1v1 chances. It’s no coincidence 6.5 of Cam Heyward’s 8.5 sacks this year have come in games Watt’s played.

As Watt also noted, the offense has made strides too. Points remain fleeting but the group now has an identity and an established running game. Crucially, they’ve taken care of the football too with just one turnover since the bye compared to a whopping 14 of them prior to it.

Above all else, Watt understood the Steelers were a young team going through typical growing pains necessary to get better.

“We’re just a young team. We had a rough start to the season. We’ve been able to grow each and every week. And that’s something we’ve continued to be able to do. And hopefully continue to do it.”

If Pittsburgh can notch one more win and get the help they need this weekend, this young team can get a taste of the playoffs, too, experience that will help springboard them into next year.

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