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T.J. Watt will see his first decline in sack production in 2021

In the new “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” series, we break down situations which could take place for the Steelers in 2021.

Denver Broncos v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the 2021 regular season, but before the real games begin, the team has to head to training camp to fine tune their skills. As we here at BTSC prepare you for the start of camp, we give you a series called “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” which gives you a Steelers scenario every day leading up to the start of camp.

It is simple how it works. We provide you the scenario, reasons why it will or won’t happen, and then our prediction for what we think will take place.

Let’s get to the scenario...

Scenario: T.J. Watt will see his first decline in sack production in 2021

T.J. Watt Career Sack Production:
2017: 7
2018: 13
2019: 14.5
2020: 15

Why it will happen: T.J. Watt has been amazing since entering the league in 2017, but you have to wonder at what point will Watt’s meteoric rise start to level out? When looking at the numbers above, you see a steady increase in his sack production, but there are a lot of reasons why that could take a step the other way in 2021. First, let me state if Watt’s sack numbers do go down a bit, it won’t necessarily mean his overall play has gotten worse. In fact, I might go as far as saying he could improve, but see his sack numbers dip a bit. Nonetheless, you have to wonder without Mike Hilton, Bud Dupree and Steven Nelson, how that will impact Watt, especially Dupree.

Why it won’t happen: Watt will not just have another year of experience under his belt. Another year of learning the position and perfecting his craft. But he will also have an extra regular season game to get to at least 15 sacks, and press James Harrison’s single season sack record. Watt will be without his pass rushing mate this season, but Alex Highsmith should be good enough to take some pressure off of Watt. On top of that, if Stephon Tuitt can duplicate his dominant season in 2020, Watt will have plenty of one-on-one matchups to win and get to the quarterback.

Prediction: If there is a player who I sit there and say, “He can’t keep this up, can he?” It’s T.J. Watt. Watt has continued to get better every year, and you expect a step backwards is inevitable, but I don’t see it happening in 2021. Watt is as motivated as ever after losing the Defensive Player of the Year award for the second straight season. Even without Dupree opposite him on the Steelers 3-4 defense, Alex Highsmith looks poised to fill the role with relative ease. Throw in the 17 game schedule, and I see Watt’s sack numbers going up. It might not be much, but I see Watt improving on his 15 sack number he posted in 2020. For the sake of this prediction, I’ll have Watt recording 16.5 sacks and breaking James Harrison’s record of 16 sacks in a single season.

Check out yesterday’s ‘30 Scenarios in 30 Days’ prediction:

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.