Steelers vs. Browns will be a battle of the NFL’s best edge defenders

The Steelers and Browns each have one of the premier pass rushers of this generation. Here’s why their performances will be key for their teams on Sunday.

Pittsburgh Steelers fans are very familiar with Myles Garrett. I bet your mind went right to the incident that occurred last year. Though everybody else knows him as a former first overall pick and one of the most talented pass rushers of this generation, Steelers fans can’t help but think about him as the guy who clubbed Mason Rudolph over the head with his own helmet.

This is a story we think would eventually die down. When we get past this, we can respect Garrett’s game for how phenomenal it really is. Despite missing the final 6 games of the 2019 season due to suspension, Garrett has picked up right where he left off in terms of his dominance on the football field.

Through the first 5 games of the 2020 season, Garrett has earned 6.0 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss, 3 forced fumbles, and 10 quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Reference. The Browns star pass rusher is on the pace for over 19 sacks this year and is widely considered among the best defensive players in the league.

The Steelers have a star pass rusher of their own

While Garrett might be the most physically imposing specimen off the edge in the NFL today, I certainly am not going to take anything away from the utter dominance T.J. Watt displays on a weekly basis. Though Garrett has some unmatched physical traits, Watt may even be the better all-around player.

Watt excels at everything he does, and he has the numbers to back it up. He is constantly in the backfield and is on pace for career highs in sacks, tackles for a loss, pressures, and quarterback hits.

Watt and Garrett are both playing so well this year that they are currently tied for 2nd in the NFL in Defensive Player of the Year odds, according to Sports Betting Dime. If both players are to play a full 16 game season in 2020, these are the remarkable stats they are on pace for:

Who has the tougher matchup this week?

While I would like to see T.J. Watt establish himself as the best edge defender in the NFL, he may not be able to do so this week, as Myles Garrett has a much more favorable matchup.

Watt will be going toe-to-toe with Jack Conklin – a former All-Pro and one the best right tackles in the National Football League. Conklin is having one of his best seasons with the team and he is currently graded out as the 8th best offensive tackle in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

While Garrett has clearly gotten the best of Alejandro Villanueva in years past, Cleveland’s star pass rusher has played most of his snaps at left defensive end this year and will likely see a majority of his reps come against Chukwuma Okorafor. The young offensive tackle has filled in nicely for the Steelers, but he hasn’t been perfect. In comparison, Okorafor’s 55.3 overall grade is good for just 66th among 72 qualifying tackles this year.

Even with a difficult matchup, T.J. Watt is still a terrific defensive player and is very capable of winning plenty of reps against a player like Jack Conklin. Let’s hope the Steelers star defender plays with an added fire underneath him as looks to cement his status as the top edge defender in the league.