The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt and defensive captain Cam Heyward did not practice in Latrobe, PA today. After an intense session yesterday, that saw the defense once again dominate the first team offense, the veterans were excused from participation. The Steelers superstar linebacker used the opportunity to sit down with Scott Hanson and Kurt Warner from the NFL network to discuss the upcoming season.
Warner, the Hall of Fame quarterback who narrowly lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers while playing for the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII, took the opportunity to stoke the Watt sibling rivalry.
“I’m going to throw this back on you, because I just talked to your brother (J.J. Watt) a couple of days ago. I know your climbing a little bit closer to him on the (sack) list,” Warner said. “But he said, ‘he is going to extend the gap this year. Any further talk back to your brother?”
J.J. Watt is one of only three players ever to win the Defensive Player of The Year award three times. The elder Watt is entering his twelfth season in the NFL, and he has 102 career sacks. The five-time All-Pro selection was dominant during his first five seasons in the NFL, but injuries have taken a toll as he has only played two complete seasons out of the last six.
“I’m shocked that he is going out in public and saying that” the younger Watt retorted, “I guess we will have to wait and see.”
Will @_TJWatt lead the league in sacks for a third straight year?
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) August 3, 2022
Last season the Steelers’ Watt tied the record for most sacks in a single season after missing two games. He signed a record-setting contract last offseason and is currently the highest-paid Pittsburgh Steelers player. Despite a six-season head start, the younger sibling is only thirty sacks behind the Arizona Cardinals veteran. The junior Watt has been named to three consecutive All-Pro first teams and has played in four consecutive Pro Bowls.
Hanson, who hosts the NFL RedZone asked T.J. Watt if he were aware that only Mark Gastineau and Reggie White had led the NFL in consecutive years in sacks and if the Steelers outside linebacker was aware he could make history by leading the league for a third consecutive year.
“That’s good company. Are you challenging me,” Watt asked. “That would be awesome if only it was that easy. I drop in coverage a decent amount so I know when it’s time to rush the passer I’m going to give this game everything I possibly can.”
The Steelers sack leader from a year ago makes a salient point here. One of the most frustrating things a fan of the black and gold can see is yet another list from Pro Football Focus or ESPN that has Myles Garrett ahead of Watt as a pass rusher. The two just are not in the same class because as an outside linebacker he does not get as many opportunities to blindly rush quarterbacks, yet he still consistently outproduces Garrett year over year.
Warner, the former Super Bowl MVP who led the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl win over the Tennessee Titans, took the opportunity to ask Watt how he sets his individual goals as a player. The fifth-year player responded:
“My first two or three years it was very statistical goals, I wanted fifteen sacks, x amount of TFL’s it was a lot of me stuff. Now it’s all about how can I help this team be the best team possible and win a Super Bowl. The goal now is to just wreck games and be an absolute disruptor.”
The Steelers are counting heavily on the disruption and extra attention he draws to result in huge seasons for Heyward and Alex Highsmith to even out production and more importantly strike terror in the heart of opposing offenses. Teams will not be able to triple-team Watt if the other Pittsburgh pass rushers are getting home consistently and the best defense in today’s NFL revolves around pressuring quarterbacks.
The Pittsburgh Steelers Watt makes it very clear that closing the gap on his big brother would be a nice Easter dinner conversation, but a deep playoff run is all that matters to him at this point in his career.
What do you think Steeler Nation? Does T.J. Watt have his priorities in line for the 2022 Steelers? Please comment below or on my [email protected]