Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt had seven sacks in all of 2017. This year, he has six in five games.
The second-year standout picked up a trio of sacks on Sunday against the Falcons. He also forced a fumble and had three separate tackles for loss in a dominant defensive performance for a franchise that desperately needed one.
So what has happened? Watt told PFT by phone after the game that the increased sack production has happened as a direct result of his move from the right side to the left side. Although the suggestion came from the coaching staff, Watt said he was “gung ho” about the opportunity, knowing that he’d be more effective from that angle.
Watt separately attributed his success to the fact that he has spent time studying not only opposing tackles on film but also himself and other pass rushers, searching for ideas on how to improve his game. And it has worked.
Sure, Watt drew a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty on Sunday when he seemed to simply graze the leg of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Watt said he understood that low hits on the quarterback get called, even though he stumbled into Ryan and tried to pull his arms back.
“Hopefully it won’t hit me in the pocket,” Watt said. “It sucked to give up 15 yards of field position.”
Watt explained that he’s not worrying about potential flags and fines while playing, citing the inconsistency from referee to referee as the basis for just playing football and letting the flags, and quarterbacks, fall where they may.
So far this year, T.J. Watt has caused quarterbacks to fall six times. His brother J.J. Watt has five. Is there a competition between them?
“It’s unspoken,” T.J. Watt said, acknowledging that they’re trying to “one-up each other” whenever they can.
So does that mean T.J. will be rooting for J.J. not to get any sacks on Sunday night against the Cowboys?
“No, never,” T.J. said. “I’ll go home and look for a 99 jersey and I’ll be his biggest fan.”