The Steelers are a different team when superstar pass rusher T.J. Watt is not on the field. They are 0-3 in games where Watt doesn't play at least a half of football, and they apply next to no pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They are a significantly worse team without him on the field. Heading into a clash with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday the Steelers already find themselves 0-1 against the club, and you guest it, Watt missed the game with a groin injury. There is still the possibility he misses the second encounter, and potentially push that terrible streak of losses without him to four.
With T.J. Watt on the field the Steelers have discovered they don't have to send tons of pressure to get home to the quarterback. Watt is a one man wrecking crew, with the ability to dominate one on ones, split double teams, and even beat a triple team to to seal a game with a sack. He is just that good at rushing the passer that the rest of the team can focus on putting more players in coverage. The rest of the defensive line even appears to play differently with Watt on the field. In obvious passing situations it typically looks like Alex Highsmith, Cam Heyward, and whoever else is playing more of a contain role of simply keeping the quarterbacks in the pocket so Watt can do what he does best. Otherwise, in the games not featuring Watt, the other rushers are trying to get home like any other team.
The fact of the matter is you can't replace a T.J. Watt, he makes your team that much better. Without him on field the Steelers struggled on defense. The Raiders carved the Steelers up for a half, the Bengals moved the ball with ease, and the Chargers couldn't be stopped all night long. How different would things have been if T.J. was available for the Steelers in any of those games? I honestly think with how he was playing the Steelers knock off the Raiders, and they definitely get at least one stop on the Chargers which likely means they win that game. He is just that big of a deal for them, and any offense needs to respect his ability at all times.
For these reasons, T.J. Watt is more deserving than he ever has been to be named the NFL’s defensive player of the year. But what do you think? Does T.J. Watt really mean this much to the Pittsburgh Steelers success? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.