T.J. Watt could break the NFL single-season sack record in 2020

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) T.J. Watt
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) T.J. Watt /

The young Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher is coming off an impressive 2019 season.

Ever since T.J. Watt first stepped on the field in a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform, he’s been one of the top defensive playmakers in the entire NFL.

Since he joined the Steelers in 2017, Watt has accumulated the fifth-most sacks (34.5) and the most forced fumbles (15) of any defender in the league. The scary part is, he probably hasn’t even come close to reaching his full potential yet.

So what could Watt have in store for the upcoming season? Coming off a 2019 campaign that saw him finish with 14.5 sacks, could he shoot for 20 this year?

Could the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker break the NFL sack record in 2020?

Even though he ended last season with a career-high, 14.5 sacks, Watt could’ve actually ended up with even more. In 2018, he blitzed the quarterback 46 times and finished with 13 sacks. His blitz opportunities increased to 80 last year, but it only resulted in 1.5 more sacks than his 2018 total.

If Watt had the same sacks per blitz rate last season that he had in 2018 (28 percent), he would have finished with 22.5 sacks instead of 14.5. That amount would have tied the NFL single-season sack record with former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, who set the mark back in 2001.

Watt certainly has the potential to break the sack record, but his position on the defense might be what prevents him from completing this accomplishment.

Since Pittsburgh uses a 3-4 defensive alignment, Watt is tasked with more responsibilities than a traditional 4-3 defensive end. If he was able to rush the quarterback on every pass play, then breaking the league’s all-time sack record might be much easier for him to achieve.

Interestingly enough though, of the 11 players who have finished with at least 20 sacks in a single season since 1984, six of them were a part of a defense that utilized a 3-4 alignment. So maybe Watt playing in a 3-4 defense could actually be an advantage for him?

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Based on what he’s already been able to accomplish in just a short amount of time since entering the NFL, why should anyone really doubt what the Steelers linebacker could do moving forward? Breaking the league’s single-season sack record is a difficult task, but Watt is fully capable of getting it done.