T.J. Watt is one of the brightest young talents in the NFL, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to use him to their full advantage in 2018.
One of the best young players on the team, T.J. Watt appears to be the answer at Outside Linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team has invested a lot of draft capitol into the position including last years first in Watt. He came into the league hot with seven tackles, two sacks, and an interception in week one.
While that game was his best of the season he turned in a very strong rookie campaign. He tied for second in sacks among rookies and was in the top twenty in tackles.
In 2017 Watt recorded seven sacks. He also came up with fifty four combined tackles and a forced fumble. In coverage he had eight passes defensed and an interception in his first ever game.
In 2018 the biggest change I expect from Watt is an increase in his sack total. Seven is very good for a rookie but I expect more in his sophomore season.
I don’t expect the astronomical jump of his brother J.J., he jumped from five and a half sacks in 2011 to twenty and a half in 2012. I expect something more like what Clay Matthews, a player T.J. was compared to before the draft, achieved. Between the 2009 and 2010 seasons he recorded three and a half more sacks.
This should be possible because of natural progression from a year in the NFL. A full NFL offseason could also be big for Watt who hit a sort of rookie wall last season. After recording four sacks in the first six games it took the next ten games to record his other three.
This shouldn’t be as big in his second season allowing Watt more consistent production. These factors should also lead to higher tackle totals as well. I also expect a slightly different role for Watt in 2018.
The Steelers dropped there outside linebackers back in coverage a lot last season but added several versatile secondary pieces. I think a year under his belt will allow him to reproduce his coverage stats. I also think he could benefit from an increase in pass rush opportunities.
Forced Fumbles: 2
Passes Defensed: 8
If Watt can reach double digit sacks the Steelers could easily retain their league sack title. Pittsburgh used a lot of different players to rush the passer last year but only Cam Hayward reached double digits.
I expect the team to continue this trend but the defense will be much better if they don’t have to rely on extra rushers all the time. If Watt can increase his quarterback pressures it will go a long way in achieving that.