T.J. Watt is already perhaps the most valuable player on the Steelers. Here’s some perspective into the ‘Hall-of-Fame’ pace he is working towards.
If the 2017 NFL Draft were to have a doover today, there’s no doubt in my mind that T.J. Watt would be one of the top picks. After his first three seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Watt is already on record pace.
In 2019, Watt was widely considered one of the best edge defenders in the league and finished as a runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year honors. After taking a hard look at his season, it wasn’t difficult to see why. Not only was Watt one of the most physically dominant defensive players in the league last year, but he was also incredibly consistent from game to game.
His boost in production last season has pushed him into some elite company – even with some future Hall-of-Fame players. Here’s how Watt’s production in his first three NFL seasons stacks up against some of the best edge defenders in the modern NFL era:
As you can see, just two edge defenders on this list of elite players have more sacks through their first three NFL seasons – Aldon Smith and Von Miller. Smith’s career fizzled out quickly after domestic violence and drug suspensions left him without a team for 4 seasons before the Cowboys signed him this offseason. Miller, however, is a future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer whenever he decides to hang up his cleats.
In addition to Watt’s impressive sack and quarterback hit totals, he leads all of these elite edge rushers in forced fumbles, pass defenses, and interceptions through his first three seasons – something that should not be understated. While many of these players were simply pass-rush specialists, Watt truly is a complete player capable of playing multiple positions and dropping back into coverage.
The Steelers edge defender has also outpaced future Hall-of-Fame players in most of these departments, and with another strong year in 2020, he could climb even higher on this list. With a 15.0-sack season this year, Watt would surpass both Von Miller and Aldon Smith in sacks through his four NFL seasons. This would not solidify his status as one of the league’s most dominant defenders, but it would put him in the fast track to becoming a Hall-of-Famer early in his career.
It’s possible that Watt is unable to maintain the unreal pace he is currently on. However, the Steelers have a rich history of great pass rushers, and Watt has all of the potential to be the greatest of them all.