This post contains affiliate links. “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”
BALTIMORE – Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker TJ Watt broke Michael Strahan’s NFL sack record in a single season with 23 seconds left in the first half of Sunday’s 16-13 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens.
The win kept the Steelers’ playoff hopes alive in Ben Roethlisbergers’ likely last regular season game as the Steelers’ quarterback. With the Jacksonville Jaguars’ disruption of the Indianapolis Colts, the Steelers would make it to the playoffs as the seven seeds, as long as the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers do not stand straight in the final Sunday night.
Watt not only recorded the historic firing to a total of 22.5 this season, he also had three quarterback hits, a tackle for loss, a hit pass and a forced fumble – all despite doubling most of the time of the fight.
Watt got his lone sack for the afternoon with 23 seconds left of the first half, and came around the edge to hit tight-end Eric Tomlinson and left tackle David Sharpe and bring Huntley down to a loss of three close to the finish line.
He hugged and high-fived his teammates on the field before the next game. Prior to the official firing, Watt had two near-sack options. At first, he appeared to fire Huntley and force a fumble while Huntley tried to recover from a messy snap. But the Baltimore Ravens’ goal scorer officially listed the play as a forced fumble.
Then, late in the second quarter, Watt Huntley packed up and brought him down with Cam Heyward’s help. But Heyward was whistled for unnecessary roughness, and the half sack was negated.
Watt drew Strahan’s 2001 milestone despite missing two complete games and nearly missing a full third.
To get to this point, Watt played through several injuries, including a long-term groin injury and a hip and knee injury sustained after a sack by Jared Goff against the Detroit Lions.
Watt, named the Steelers’ MVP by his teammates for the third time in a row, came into Sunday’s regular season finale just one sack from equaling the record after bringing Cleveland Brown quarterback Baker Mayfield down to a career-high four times Monday night.
Just before the season, Watt, 27, signed a $ 112 million four-year extension with the Steelers, making him the NFL’s highest paid defender, cementing his status as one of the league’s leading players. He has been a focal point for opponents’ passing protection, and yet he is still one of the league’s most disruptive and dominant players.
Through week 17, Watt generated a sack of 6.1% of his pass rushes, the highest single-season sack rate of the Next Gen Stats era. He also has the third-highest Pass Rush Win Rate in the NFL when he lines up as a winger and defeats his block within 2.5 seconds 25% of the time. Only Myles Garrett (28%) and Josh Sweat (26%) have higher Pass Rush Win rates on the edge this year. And he’s more than just sacks – Watt also has four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Earlier in the season, Watt missed all-week training after testing positive for COVID-19, but returned to record 3.5 sacks of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and impact his throw on a potentially game-winning 2-point conversion.
To prepare for that fight while in isolation, Watt ran rounds around the trees in his backyard. But it’s not just his physical preparation that lifts him to one of the league’s best. Watt carefully studies films for hours, intervening on cadence and counting to gain an added benefit.