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Steelers Film Room: T.J. Watt responds to cold spell with the best NFL game of his young career

After three cold weeks for TJ Watt, he showed out on Sunday against the Falcons

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

We all know what Bud Dupree is, and that is a guy who can’t pass rush in a one-on-one situation. Thus, we all hoped his comrade on the other side, T.J. Watt, would show out and be a key pass rusher for the Pittsburgh Steelers this year.

After a great week one performance, Watt went cold in weeks 2 through 4, much like most of this team. Watt seemingly had no pass rushing moves, and had to be schemed to get pressures on the QB. His run defense, which is usually good, slipped down to levels which were horrendous. However, with the Steelers having their backs up against the wall, Watt responded with not just a good game, but the best game he has had in the NFL thus far. This team needs Watt to be good in order for them to go where they want to go — the Super Bowl. I can only hope he continues this style of play.

However, I loved Keith Butler’s game plan for this game. Even if Watt did win one-on-one this game, Butler still schemed him wide open.

Matt Ryan audibles for a slide protection here and Watt is schemed against it perfectly with that inside stunt. With the offensive line not expecting it at all, Watt’s athleticism is shown off as he easily gets around the corner and gets to Matt Ryan quickly. Not a great play by Watt, but a great job of scheming by Keith Butler from watching film on the Falcons.

Something I also noticed with Watt this game was how he seemed more adept into the game as a whole. Keith Butler schemed him into ILB at times and he played that role pretty well. He should not be there all the time, but in sub-packages, it works rather well.

Overall this is just an insanely smart play on the part of T.J. Watt and it is why I hope we see this more often. He carries Julio Jones to perfect depth and does not allow the easy first down conversion, but having awareness to go back to Ryan and then break down so it forces him to throw is a play veterans make. Of course, just to make it better, he gets his hands in Ryan’s face too and makes this throw as hard as possible, and it is only completed because Julio Jones is cheat code on jump balls.

As for pass rushing, Watt showed he has moves in his arsenal. He seems to have an interesting stutter step that he uses to get tackles to turn their hips outside and then he heads outside and it gives him leverage. I have not seen it that much on film before this week so it sure is nice to see him develop it.

Not everyone has this type of bend around the edge either and it probably the most impressive part of this play as a whole. I love how low Watt is as he bends too, that is playing with leverage, and Bud Dupree sure could learn and thing or two from this play alone. At the very least, Watt is evolving his pass rushing game and with that bend he can terrorize.

Even more so evident in that, however, is easily the play of the game from T.J. Watt. This is pass rushing mastery.

Other than the false step again and using his hands to get leverage, this is dipping around the edge perfectly. We know how athletic Watt is and my goodness this is a beautiful rep to put pass rushing and athleticism together. The speed and bend combination shows up here and it allows Watt to get right around the edge for the forced fumble. He keeps his shoulders square and dips his hips. which causes Schraeder to let go of his jersey and allows him time to bend. This essentially ended the game and Watt’s best sack of his career.

Watt has now shown the fact he has pass rushing moves and can be the pass rusher the Steelers need. He should start developing some hand usage of a chop or rip and it will also help him win inside. He clearly has the bend to get around the edge.

If he can put some consistency on it, Watt will be the rusher the Steelers so badly need him to be.