T.J. Watt Proving Impactful Against The Run

So it’s time to have some fun with numbers. I would like to point out an interesting statistic that came to my attention recently about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie defensive starter, outside linebacker T.J. Watt. Evidently—outside of some missed tackles, which need to be cleaned up—he has been one of the better run defenders at his position this season.

According to Pro Football Focus, he has accumulated 118 snaps against the run this season, recording 20 tackles. 12 of those tackles were credited as run stops, tackles that prevented the offense from having a successful play.

While means that on more than 10 percent of his snaps against the run, he produces a negative play for the offense. Only two other 3-4 outside linebackers can say the same: Khalil Mack of the Raiders, and Shaquil Barrett of the Broncos, whom the Steelers seriously should have pursued harder.

Barrett leads the position with a run-stop percentage of 11, recording 14 stops on 127 run snaps. Mack has 21 run stops on 198 run snaps for a 10.6 percentage. The closest to Watt’s 10.2-percent run stoppage is a full percentage point behind.

But, as mentioned, he has also had a number of missed tackles. PFF officially credits him with four missed tackles against the run, which is the second-most behind Lorenzo Alexander at the position. Bud Dupree also has three, and there are only six who have missed that many.

Dupree’s run-stop percentage, by the way, is just 5.3, which ranks 23rd among qualified players, recording eight run stops on 151 run snaps. that is out of a total of 28 players at the position who have played at least 50 percent of the run snaps.

The Steelers really need to use this bye week to recuperate and regather themselves, to work on some fundamentals and clean up some of the things that have been holding them back, things that could end up being the difference between a win and a loss someday.

They have been fortunate quite a bit this year, though they have also created a lot of their own problems, especially in the run defense. The secondary in particular, aside from Mike Hilton, has struggled at times in staying in their gaps and in finishing through tackle, which have contributed to some big rushing days.

I do think that this statistic somewhat validates the idea that a lot the issues in the run game haven’t been Watt’s fault, which is something I’ve seen suggested at times. Sure, he has made mistakes, as any rookie would, but overall, he has been an asset, which is why he’s been playing.

And I know a lot of people take issue with Pro Football Focus, but these are pretty concrete numbers. Run snaps are pretty clear. Tackles are pretty clear—they’re in the game book. Run stops are clearly defined, and we’ve defined them a number of times. Our data is in line with theirs, but they have data for the entire league, so it’s interesting to draw comparisons.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • LeftyLoosey1

    Jarvis Jones was good vs the run too…

  • John Noh

    Yeah but TJ has had more sacks in half of his rookie season than Jarvis accumulated in his whole, sad stint with the Steelers. That’s why he’s out of the league right now.

  • kdubs412

    At this point I’m starting to think bud is who he is; extremely athletic, decent enough at everything but not great at anything. I know his pressure rate has improved since last year but just 3 sacks at the midway point is disappointing, and he hasn’t proven to be a reliable run defender or excelled in coverage. Hate to say it but unless he really breaks out over the second half of the year year it’s probably time to start thinking about drafting another edge rusher in the first couple of rounds.

  • Chris92021

    Disagree. Just look at Jarvis get blocked by Gavin Escobar as Jarvis not only missed his assignment but get singled blocked by a TE not known for his blocking prowess in that Zeke Elliott TD run last year. That play was the most important play of our season because it got Jarvis benched for good. Jarvis was about average as a run stopper.

  • Steeler Nation!

    Sadly, You’re right. He hasn’t shown to be as good as Jarvis vs the run. He has been better at getting pressure than Jarvis was. But he hasn’t shown that he will be worthy of a big payday.
    TJ hopefully continues to get better vs the run. I think he was very much part of the problem vs the Bears. But hopefully days like that are behind us.

  • Chris92021

    And Bud probably missed more sacks than getting actual sacks. He overruns everything. Honestly if it works out that TJ Watt continues to play well, I would consider trading Bud next offseason because if he hasn’t gotten it by now, he never will.

  • Lambert58

    T.J. had trouble setting the edge on some of those big runs earlier in the season. But I agree, overall, he’s been pretty solid for a rookie.

  • Nathanael Dory

    Lol trading Bud..

  • melblount

    Meanwhile, in Bungleland, their 1st Round pick, 9th pick overall, WR John Ross is a healthy scratch today. John has compiled a season total one touch and one fumble. Atta boy, John!

  • DAWAARE

    jarvis jones is a FA . sign him !!

  • Dshoff

    Bingo. It seems like every rookie OLB seems to forget about keeping outside contain at times. I’m sure that he will clean that up pretty quickly, but it has hurt us.

  • Matthew Marczi

    A lot of that was on Artie Burns failing to crack/replace too.

  • Steeler Nation!

    I agree. That is something he should have learned in HS. He’s disappointing vs the run.

  • MC

    I want to lock this kid up now, I don’t need to see anymore haha.

  • Steve

    You must be kidding. Jarvis was terrible in run support. Just look at the Dolphins game last year, they ran sweep to his side which was right over him many times. He could not set the edge and could not tackle. Thanks for the laugh – HA HA HA!

  • Taylor Williams

    Wait until he enters his 3rd year.

  • Steve

    Average HA HA – Jarvis was much below average in run support and Terrible at rushing the QB. He didn’t know what setting the edge was and they ran him over and over, he had track marks up and down his jersy.

  • Steve

    With the way Watt and Juju are doing this year, it will be neck and neck for Rookie of the year.

  • Jim Foles

    Maybe Bud should rush the QB like Bell runs… wait a second, read and attack. he is quick enough.

  • Kevin78

    These are the types of PFF numbers that are most useful. The numbers are clear and well-defined. I like PFF for the most part. Their grading system is suspect to me, but many of their other “advanced stats” are pretty good.

  • Kevin78

    Pressures are very important too. Many sacks come from being the second guy coming through, not the first guy. Even missing the QB for a sack usually disrupts the play enough for the defense to be successful.

  • nutty32

    TJ has indeed been good against the run, but not sure if the “run stop” is clearly defined as intended. I mean, your teammates need to do a lot to give the “tackler” the opportunity to shine; its a team game especially for the front 7. Just another subjective, mostly misleading PFF stat.

  • Kevin78

    Everything in football relies upon teammates to do their jobs. If your objection is that the teammates might do much of the work on any given play, then none of the stats, even traditional ones, are going to meet your objection. The subjectivity is minimal in this stat. Where the subjectivity exists is what counts as a successful running play for the offense. Run Stop is one that makes a running play unsuccessful. You can objectively measure what happens on the play. Did the running back get 5 yards or 3 yards? We can easily tell that. Is that a successful play? That’s the subjective part. However, it is not much more subjective than determining what ypc is good or not.

  • nutty32

    Agree with all that, but its the crediting of the run stop to a single individual that’s questionable & misleading. Stuff like this leads to results where they had Artie Burns as the 3rd most effective CB in the league.