Film Room: T.J. Watt Provides Spark In Divisional Win

Pittsburgh Steelers rookie starter T.J. Watt was pretty quiet for the defense last Sunday, which prompted me to check in with him and see exactly what happened. This week, I’m checking back in with him again, but for the opposite reason. He was hard to miss on the field, registering six tackles and a sack.

The first-round draft pick has consistently displayed his natural athleticism coupled with a strong motor all season, and that comes in handy on the backside sometimes. It served him well on the third play of the game, helping chase Jeremy Hill from behind for no gain.

On the first play of the Bengals’ second drive, he set the left tackle up for an outside rush before swimming over his inside shoulder, quickly penetrating and nearly drawing a hold as he wrestled quarterback Andy Dalton to the ground, forcing a throwaway.

The Bengals’ attempt at a flea ficker did not go well thanks in part to Watt. While he was initially contained, he showed both maturity and athleticism to eventually win, making the tackle think he was going to attempt to spin back to the middle of the field. Once he got the lineman leaning the other way, he rushed by on the outside and forced Dalton to throw into double coverage down the field.


As we’ve talked about, Watt is spending a lot of his time dropping into coverage, though he hasn’t been targeted a lot. He saw at least one target against Cincinnati, of a sort, dropping to his spot, but with the ball going to Joe Mixon in the flat. He wasn’t able to get a clean tackle, which allowed the back eight yards.

At the top of the fourth quarter, Watt made two plays in a three-play sequence, first chasing Giovani Bernard down from behind for a one-yard gain. Yet another example of just his quickness, both physically and mentally, to make these plays a routine.

Two plays later, he killed off the drive with a great stunt rush, blowing inside the leftside A Gap and dragging Dalton down by the feet before he even knew what hit him.

There are still some rookie moments for the younger Watt brother, to be sure, but that should be cause for excitement. He is definitely not at is ceiling right now, but he is already playing pretty well. More one-on-one success with left tackles in passing situations is the big step to take.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • steeltown

    Sooo fun to watch this kid play

  • Ichabod

    Need to use him in short yardage/red zone (on offense)

  • Diesel

    Wow, and all those years waiting for Jarvis Jones to play at this level. SMH

  • falconsaftey43

    Most impressive pass rush skill for him so far is getting off blocks. He does a really good job of continuing to work towards the QB even if initially stopped. This is a great trait, especially when we have a team that’s been good at collapsing the pocket and getting pressure from a variety of places.

  • Spencer Krick

    When I was watching that last gif on TV, I just saw a pair of arms emerge from all of those legs and bring Dalton down.

  • Michael James

    Is it safe to say that Watt is already more impressive than Dupree so far?
    I don’t know, he just seems to be a more natural football player and he actually beats the tackles he plays against. I haven’t given up on Dupree, but he still gets steered up the arc so often.

  • NinjaMountie

    Watt follows those OTs when they pull! For sure!
    I think this IS our 1st round pass rusher we’ve been trying to land for a long time. He is much faster and quicker than I thought he was coming out of college. He’s also bigger. I hope he doesn’t get too enamored with the weight room as he has the frame to put on too much weight. We don’t need another Woodley. Don’t get me wrong, I’m eager to see what he becomes with a full off season of NFL conditioning but….Stay Athletic!!!

  • treeher

    Funny to watch that huge lumbering left tackle try to keep up with him. Reminds me of me trying swat a persistent fly.

  • Don

    I loved the sack coming off the stunt. It looked like the G (#65) was caught completely unaware. He was busy with Heyward, then all of a sudden Watt was bull dozing him on his way to the QB. Great play. Also, what about Shazier’s closing speed on the flea-flicker? He does this so often, but I find it stunning every time.

  • JT

    I think his play vs the run and in coverage is even more impressive than his pure pass rushing at this point in his career. Great instincts for a guy still learning the position.

  • treeher

    I bet he has learned a lot from Deebo and Joey.

  • Mark

    I love his motor and his football IQ. Knows when to stop his outside rush and counter with a move back to the QB. How does Bud not see this and change his rush pattern

  • John Noh

    Agreed! His run defense and overall instincts have been revelations.

  • Intense Camel


  • Intense Camel


  • Dorian James

    This is kind of off topic Matt, but maybe you guys can do a write-up on the top three most important guys on the defense, I believe TJ is one of them

  • T3xassteelers

    I think TJ is going to be a top 5 OLB soon. I have no idea in hell the Packers passed on him……

  • Ace

    Was going to say the same thing. I think its fair to say Watt is better than Dupree at rushing the passer. As far as playing the run and coverage, they might be even. Seems to me Watt does a better job with backside support on the run and seems more fluid in coverage. I think hes got the edge all around.

  • Doug McFee

    Steelers lucky to have #90!

  • Matthew Marczi

    Alejandro Villanueva back in the offseason said it was annoying playing against Watt.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    It seemed like a light came on for Bud after TJ’s sack. He got one and just missed on another. I smell a little competition brewing.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well if we’re going to go by current 2017 contributions, Heyward and Shazier would definitely have to be 1a and 1b. The third spot is trickier…I think Watt, either CB, or Mitchell could all be in the mix.

  • Scunge

    Don’t forget about Mike Hilton. Giving us some of the best slot CB play we have seen in a long time. I think people underestimate that position. You can have two Pro Bowl starting CBs but if your nickel back/slot CB is being beaten like a drum it does not matter.

    I think Hilton’s play has had a tremendous impact on this defense this season.

  • Adam Pristas

    I feel ya man. Just let it go… just let it go…

  • Adam Pristas

    yup, big bro has helped a lot. It’s that constant motor. It’s more a genetic thing than a coaching thing.

  • Adam Pristas

    I think they can learn from one another. Hopefully they like to sit and watch tape together.

  • Adam Pristas

    I remember that. Iron sharpens iron.

  • Adam Pristas

    This. x1,000,000. Can’t believe they passed on him. Then the browns swoop in to take Njoku. crazy draft, fun to watch. Glad we got a real 1st rounder this time. There have been a few slump years, especially at this position.

  • Matthew Marczi

    No doubt about that. I’ll have a film study on Hilton against Cincinnati up tomorrow, coincidentally.

  • Taylor Williams

    Woodley had an eating problem. He was unhealthy and out of shape.

    I want Watt to get as strong as possible.

  • MC

    My observations:
    Hilton is playing great. In the first play you can see that he is not afraid to stick his nose in there on run plays (been doing it all season) which slowed the RB up for Watt to clean up. Watt has been chasing down on backside for most of this year, if we have Hilton or Davis blitzing the other side and creating disruption, this will happen every time.
    Watt is athletic but also smart, on some of the backside plays you can see he doesn’t over commit to the run or pass. On the second last play you can see he angles to Dalton and when it is handed off, he is in position to still chase down the RB, showing his discipline for his assignment which would be contain but also his speed to chase down the RB – brilliant stuff.
    The negative – Dupree. Couple of plays he’s put to the ground and the other ones he’s running up the arc, something I’ve seen far too often from him. I think he is averse to contact with tackles. I remember when I first played football I was an OLB and I too tried to get around tackles far too often and step inside. I admitted that I tried to avoid the tackle as I was an undersized guy who was fast. At the pro level and at the pos we drafted Bud, this is inexcusable. He needs to know how and when to put his foot down and drive the tackle back. With his speed and power he can do it, he just doesn’t think he can. Tackles watch film and can see that he always goes outside so they kick back for that, this should give him opportunity to spin or swim inside but he rarely does it.
    The only sack this game he got was from an inside stunt which utilizes his speed and requires not pass rush move technique. The almost sack he got was when he was matched on a smaller RB. He absolutely needs to learn how to beat a tackle one on one, Watt is already better than him in that regard with much less experience.

  • Steve

    Jones couldn’t carry his JS.

  • Steve

    Still waiting for Watt to pick off a ball for a pick 6.

  • 2020_Vision

    Mitchell Stinks!! Hilton has been the spark plug in the secondary.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Tell him yourself.