All eyes were on Bud Dupree on Monday night, but here’s why Steelers edge defender, T.J. Watt, is quietly continuing his run of dominance.
Apart from the potentially season-ending injuries Pittsburgh suffered on Monday Night Football, fans couldn’t have asked for a better opening game, given the circumstances. Ben Roethlisberger had not played a regular-season game in nearly a year, while the Steelers played musical chairs with their offensive linemen.
Still, Mike Tomlin and his crew found a way to handily take care of business on the road in the home opener – something they haven’t been great at doing in recent years. While Roethlisberger, Benny Snell, and the Steelers offense deserve praise for their efforts on Monday night, it was Pittsburgh’s defense that was most impressive.
Bud Dupree was arguably the most praised player after the game. His ability to get after the quarterback and make plays in the backfield had fans very excited about what he might bring to the table this sesaon.
Steelers T.J. Watt was silent but deadly
Meanwhile, T.J. Watt was relatively quiet compared to what we are used to seeing. However, that certainly doesn’t mean he had a bad game against New York. According to Pro Football Focus, Watt earned the best grade among edge defenders in the first week of the NFL season. In fact, his 93.7 overall grade was second among all NFL defensive players in Week 1.
In the box score, Watt was credited with just 1 tackle on the night. However, he also earned a tackle for a loss, two pass defenses, and an interception near the line of scrimmage. However, much of what he did against the Giants show up on the stat sheet.
Watt was incredibly disruptive in his first game of the 2020 season. In addition to continually pressuring quarterback Daniel Jones, the All-Pro edge defender was robbed of a strip-sack in the first half of the game. (Fortunately, they called it an incomplete pass on the field. Otherwise, the Giants would have recovered the ball for a touchdown).
According to Pro Football Focus, Watt dropped into coverage just twice against the Giants, but he managed to record 1 interception and 2 pass defenses. Just like last year, it doesn’t matter what he’s asked to do, he always seems to do an outstanding job with his assignment.
This isn’t to take anything away from the incredible game that Bud Dupree had on Monday Night Football. Though Dupree graded out as just the 27th ranked edge defender in Week 1, his impact could be felt from the comfort of our own living rooms.
Remarkably, even Derek Watt was credited for more tackles (2 on special teams) than what T.J. earned in Week 1. I’m willing to bet that doesn’t happen again. Here’s to knowing that even when Watt is barely noticed, he’s still making a monumental impact on the game.