For a team that earned its Blitzburgh nickname on back of the pass-rushing talents of their outside linebackers, the team’s sack numbers have not always been deserving of that moniker as of late. The 2017 season may have seen a rebirth in production, breaking the Pittsburgh Steelers all-time record for sacks with 56, but it was the efforts of players like Cameron Heyward (12 sacks) and Vince Williams (8) that truly made the difference last year.
While some might fairly argue that the style of Keith Butler’s defense requires his edge-rushers to drop in to coverage more than ever before, it would seem that T.J. Watt is bringing the sacks back to the outside linebacker position in 2018. With two more sacks against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Watt has now recorded 10 quarterback takedowns on the season, the first time a Pittsburgh outside linebacker has managed that feat since James Harrison finished the year with 10.5 in 2010.
Currently in a fourth place tie for the league lead in sacks behind Aaron Donald (14.5), Danielle Hunter (11.5) and Chandler Jones (10.5), T.J. recorded both back-to-back sacks and back-to-back forced fumbles in a game for the first time in his career on Sunday. His 17 sacks in barely two seasons of football is now the most by any Steelers’ defender through their first two years in the league, surpassing a record of 15.5 set by LaMarr Woodley in 2007 and 2008.
Those hoping that T.J. might have some of the qualities of his older brother should be pleased to see how his production has mirror J.J.’s so far in 2018.
JJ’s #Texans have won seven in a row, TJ’s #Steelers have won six in a row. And after checking his girlfriend’s Sweet Sixteen soccer score, the first thing TJ wanted to know was if big brother JJ had won. #family pic.twitter.com/32uqyx1cQU— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) November 19, 2018
The 2010 season was also the last time Pittsburgh ended the year with two players showing double-digit sacks, but that milestone might be a step too far this season. Heyward currently sits second on the team with 5.5 sacks and Javon Hargrave is third with five. However, we would be remiss if we did not also point out that Hargrave deserves some credit for more than doubling his career totals with his first two sack game as a professional on Sunday.