Steelers EDGE T.J. Watt is hitting the QB at a faster rate than anyone in the NFL

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90). Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90). Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /

T.J. Watt has been a nightmare to opposing quarterbacks. Here’s why the Steelers star is on record pace when it comes to quarterback hits.

Since T.J. Watt’s rookie year in 2017, we knew that there was something special about him. Coming out of Wisconsin, Watt was a player who dealt with a lot of injuries, but was quite impressive with his combination of elite athletic traits and tenacity on the football field.

Though Watt had just 7.0 sacks in 15 games as a rookie, he has made major strides since then – recording 42.5 sacks over the past three seasons, according to Pro Football Reference. Watt has earned first-team All-Pro honors in two straight years and was a Defensive Player of the Year finalist in both 2019 and 2020.

Though there are a few players that have outpaced him in some major statistical departments, nobody has been better at landing shots on the quarterback over the past two seasons than T.J. Watt. According to NFL on CBS, Watt has earned a whopping 78 quarterback hits over the past two seasons:

This is a number that blows the great Aaron Donald out of the water – surpassing him by 23 quarterback hits since 2019. Za’Darius Smith is the closest player to Watt in this department, but even he has 17 fewer QB hits than Watt despite playing one more game over the past two seasons.

T.J. Watt is on record pace for QB hits

Assuming that his career path continues in this direction, T.J. Watt is on record pace. Since quarterback hits became an official stat back in 2006, J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald have been the best in the business at getting shots on opposing quarterbacks. Considering that both players will go down as two of the best defenders to ever play the game, this is some pretty great company to be in.

In his career, T.J. Watt has already earned 111 quarterback hits in his first 4 NFL seasons. That number has increased exponentially each year, and his 41 QB hits in 2020 tied the great Aaron Donland for the best single-season mark in his career, according to Pro Football Reference.

While some would argue that Watt is just looking to get a shot on the quarterback after he releases the ball while other pass rushers choose to let up, I would disagree. Watt’s elite combination of quickness and power combined with a relentless demeanor allow him to be around the ball almost every play. We can’t pretend like everyone has the ability to do this.

These quarterback hits are not a meaningless stat, and continually getting knocked down by a player like T.J. Watt is going to get in a quarterback’s head. The way he impacts the defense is evident.

There is little reason to believe that Watt is going to slow down in this department, as he just seems to keep getting better at everything he does. Still just 26 years old, T.J. Watt should keep his streak alive and be among the league leaders in quarterback hits in 2021.