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.