How long would it take for T.J. Watt to be the NFL’s all-time sack leader?

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) T.J. Watt
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) T.J. Watt /

The Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher is already off to a blazing-fast start to his career.

In just three years, T.J. Watt has already emerged as one of the best pass rushers to suit up for the Pittsburgh Steelers in recent memory.

During his three seasons with the Steelers, Watt has already racked up 34.5 sacks. His sack total is the most by any Pittsburgh defender in their first three years with the team since sacks first started to be officially recorded by the NFL in 1982.

Former Steelers linebacker Lamar Woodley was the previous record holder after he accumulated a total of 29 sacks during his first three seasons with the franchise from 2007 to 2009.

Could the young Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher ever become the NFL’s sack king?

Currently, Hall-of-Fame defensive end Bruce Smith holds the record for the most career sacks in league history with 200 (since they started keeping track of them in 1982). Believe it or not, Watt’s 34.5 sacks is a higher amount than what Smith had after his first three years in the NFL (33.5).

Smith went on to play for 19 seasons in the league as a member of both the Buffalo Bills and Washington. He didn’t end up breaking the all-time sack record, which was previously held by Reggie White, until his very last year in the NFL.

So it took Smith 19 seasons to break the record. Let’s see how long it might take Watt to become the league’s all-time sack leader.

Based on his three-year pace (11.5 sacks per season), the Pittsburgh pass rusher would have to remain in the NFL for at least another 15 years. However, if we use Watt’s pace from his last two seasons (13.75), then he would only need to play for an additional 12 years.

It’s basically going to take quite a while if the young Steelers linebacker has his heart set on breaking Smith’s record one day. And who knows, the record might have already been broken by someone else by the time Watt begins to inch closer to hitting 200 career sacks.

There are a few active players from around the league like Von Miller, Chandler Jones, and Aaron Donald who have the potential to break Smith’s record before Watt. By the time the Pittsburgh pass rusher calls it a career, the all-time sack record could be up 210 or 215.

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Based on his first three seasons, Watt certainly has a chance to break Smith’s record one day. But it’s going to require him to remain in the NFL for a longer period of time than he might like.