Rookie starter T.J. Watt had a pretty quiet game last week against the Chiefs in Kansas City, registering just one tackle, though that is not necessarily indicative of poor play. He was far more active yesterday against the Bengals, registering a total of six tackles to go along with his fourth sack of the season, which now puts him in a three-way tie for the team lead in sacks.
From what I can quickly gather, it seems as though at least three of his tackle were registered as stops, all against the run, and I believe each of them came against a different running back. Aside from his sack for a loss of seven yards, he also created multiple pressures on other downs that influenced the play.
It seemed just last week that many may have wanted to pump the breaks on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie starter experiment and reinsert James Harrison, who came through in the clutch a week ago to record a sack for a loss of eight yards on third and 10 against the Chiefs on a potential game-winning drive.
That performance last week did earn Harrison another helmet after he was a healthy scratch in consecutive weeks, and he did see a bit of time on the field yesterday, but he did not play much, nor did he record any statistics, which helped set up Watt for what was perhaps the best game so far of his young career, though it’s hard to top two sacks and an interception, as he got in his debut.
Watt, who missed one game with an injury, has now played in and started six games for the Steelers, compiling so far 26 tackles with four sacks, one interception, and three passes defensed. It is hard to argue against that productivity when you combine that with the fact that he has had relatively few ‘rookie’ mistakes to speak of.
Watt has now recorded six-tackle, one-sack performances twice within the past three weeks, sandwiched in between, as has been noted, just a one-tackle showing last week in Kansas City, and he is beginning to play faster and more aggressively as he settles into more and more of a rhythm.
But there is I think no greater compliment with respect to what the coaching staff thinks of the young player than the fact that they have entrusted in him the lion’s share of the coverage responsibilities from the outside linebacker position.
While the right outside linebacker has traditionally done it more than the left side, Alex’s numbers have him dropping quite frequently, more than 40 percent of the time on passing downs, if my memory is correct, which may only bolster the quality of his pass-rushing numbers.
His sack yesterday came on an impressive inside burst between the left guard and tackle, on which he dropped Andy Dalton for a seven-yard loss on third down and forced them to punt late in the game, a clutch play from the 23-year-old.