The Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious in Week 1 of the NFL regular season when they beat the Buffalo Bills 23-16 in Orchard Park, NY. A large reason for the Steelers’ win was the play of their defense, and one player in particular. None other than T.J. Watt.
During the game Watt was dominant, racking up the following stat line:
3 tackles, 3 solo, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 5 QB Hits
After the game, Watt spoke with the media, and didn’t just talk about his play, but the play of the Steelers’ defense as a whole. But first, Watt was asked about what it felt like to be back out there after not playing in the preseason and/or any team drills throughout training camp.
“I felt fresh all week and I didn’t want to get too confident with how I felt coming into a game atmosphere.” Watt said. “Obviously, all the hype and adrenaline comes with it, but the three-man rotation that we have with Alex [Highsmith] and Melvin [Ingram] is something that’s going to be really special. We are a very unselfish group and that’s why I’m looking forward to playing with both of them.”
The Steelers held the Bills, who averaged over 30 points per game last season and returned almost their entire roster, to 16 points. Would this be considered a dominant performance? Watt wasn’t about to go that far.
“I don’t want to say a dominant performance because obviously there’s still a lot left on the table and I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of film to watch and make corrections, but I’m very happy with where we are, especially in Week One.” Watt added. “I love playing with this group. We fly around. We handle adversity really well.”
Speaking of adversity, and flying around to the football, Watt lauded the play of Cam Sutton and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Both defensive backs made crucial plays in the Steelers’ victory. stop
“Huge.” Watt said when talking about Sutton’s 4th down stop. “I think the play before, I came up and under the tackle and I shouldn’t have. Minkah [Fitzpatrick] came down like a missile from the middle of field and made it fourth-and-one. Just plays like that were happening all day. I’m so excited to get back and watch the film because there were tremendous plays like that all over. Then Cam Sutton made a tremendous play on that fourth-and-one as well to get the ball back to our offense.”
The Steelers’ defense didn’t always have it easy. In fact, they were behind the proverbial 8-ball from the opening kickoff. After surrendering a 75-yard kickoff return, it was the defense who made the big stop on the opening drive, holding the Bills to a field goal.
“That’s huge.” Watt recalled about the stop. “Anytime we, as a defense, can help the offense as much as we possibly can, and then towards the end of the game you see the special teams getting involved too… it was truly a three-phase win today.”
The Steelers were recipients of two huge plays back-to-back when Watt sacked Allen on third down, and the following play Miles Killebrew came through the line and blocked a punt which resulted in a Ulysees Gilbert III touchdown.
“I like to say the adrenaline and all that started with 44 [Derek Watt] getting the tackle on the kickoff. He was all hyped up. He got me hyped up, and then, obviously, the sack.” Watt said. “Like I said, this game, especially on the road, it’s all about momentum and playing with momentum and going with the ebbs and flows of football. We did a really good job of feeding off each other and when one group wasn’t doing so hot another group stepped up, so it was a complete football game for us.”
The Steelers made some adjustments at halftime, and the outcome certainly wouldn’t have been the same had they not been able to make those necessary changes. But don’t tell Watt those adjustments were somehow special or unique.
“We are professionals. There were no guys hanging their heads. We knew that we needed to make adjustments. We made them. We came out in the second half and executed.” Watt said.
The Steelers getting Watt back before Week 1 was a huge relief, and a big boost for the Steelers’ defense. As great as they played Sunday vs. the Bills, just imagine how good they could be when they get Stephon Tuitt back in the lineup off Injured Reserve (IR). This defense isn’t just good, they are dominant. Sunday just proved this to those who were doubting.