T.J. Watt producing sacks at impressive rate, even for a Steeler

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Once upon a time, the Steelers were defined not by their throw-it-all-over-the-yard offense, but by a defense that knew how to get after opposing quarterbacks.

That’s been more reputation than reality lately, but T.J. Watt is bringing it back.

According to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Watt has become the first Steelers outside linebacker since 2010 to record double-digit sacks in a season, the first since James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.

That’s almost unthinkable for a franchise that saw a steady procession of such players from the 90s forward, as Kevin Greene begat Greg Lloyd, who begat Jason Gildon, who begat Joey Porter, who begat Woodley and Harrison. It seemed like that torch would be passed, but it went cold for nearly a decade.

The search for someone to continue that lineage hasn’t been for a lack of trying, as they’ve used first-rounders on Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree in recent years, to little avail. But Watt has figured it out fast, with seven sacks as a rookie before collecting his 10th in as many games with a pair last week.

As soon as T.J. got here, he got it,” Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward. “Sometimes it takes guys longer. Sometimes you’re waiting. But for T.J., to start off the way he did and have such success at an early age in his career, he’s got a jump on a lot of guys. Only time will tell, but I think the sky is the limit for him. The thing with T.J. is you have to keep challenging yourself year in and year out because he’s putting up the stats.

“Now everyone will expect more and more, but your expectations have to be higher than theirs. But I know T.J. will do it. He comes from the lineage of guys who go out and outperform each other. I’m excited for where his future can end up.”

He also joined a select club of players who have 17.0 sacks in their first 25 games, along with Von Miller, Terrell SuggsClay Matthews, Aldon Smith, and Shawne Merriman.

“I don’t know what to make of it,” Watt said. “I don’t set goals to be in company with other people. I just set goals to be the best player that I can be. Before the season I always put out a number of goals for myself. I don’t publicize them because you never know what can happen throughout the season.

“Anytime you can be mentioned with that great company, it’s awesome. But I’m not satisfied at all.”

The Steelers can be, knowing they may have finally hit on one of those picks trying to extend one of the most prolific positions in their history.