Steelers record and stats without T.J. Watt are stunningly awful
The Pittsburgh Steelers need T.J. Watt even more than we thought they would. Here are the results when he has been on the sidelines.
One defensive player can’t make that big of an impact, can they? Think again. Another game without T.J. Watt, another loss, and an unsatisfactory performance by the Pittsburgh Steelers defense. Still on injured reserve with a pectoral injury, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year missed his second straight game of the 2022 season.
It’s safe to say that this unit simply does not look the same when T.J. Watt is not on the field. Over the past two weeks against the Patriots and Browns, Pittsburgh’s defense has struggled to muster up any sort of consistent pressure whatsoever, and defending the run has been a major issue — surrendering 295 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns in the past two weeks alone.
It doesn’t just feel like the team is better when Watt plays; it’s statistically proven at this point. In terms of the Steelers record, opponent points allowed per game, and sacks recorded, Pittsburgh is drastically worse in each category, according to stats from Pro Football Reference.
While six games is still a relatively small sample size, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this team is drastically worse across the board. This matches with what we have seen in Watt’s absence on film. The defense essentially goes from being a borderline elite unit to a well below average group despite the loss of just one player.
Steelers can’t be so reliant on Watt’s health
T.J. Watt is a genuine difference maker, and any team without its best player is going to struggle. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers cannot afford to be so reliant on their star edge rusher for success. There must be other players who come to step up to the plate when Watt is out, and outside of the occasional splash play from Minkah Fitzpatrick, we just haven’t seen that.
Cameron Heyward has been stonewalled since Watt left the field with the pec injury. Opposing offenses can now shift all of the attention in his direction, and he’s just not able to overcome the double-teams to make a sizable impact. Meanwhile, without Watt generating quick and consistent pressure, Pittsburgh’s linebackers and defensive backs have been exposed.
Offensively, this team has relied far too heavily on a great play from a Watt-led defense to carry them to victory. By themselves and with Matt Canada running the show, they certainly don’t have enough firepower to keep up with teams at this rate. Missing too often in the NFL Draft in recent years hasn’t helped.
It truly is remarkable the impact that T.J. Watt makes just being on the football field, as the Steelers defense is a night and day difference when he’s not there. We hope that Watt can come back quickly, but this is just more evidence that this roster is starving for talent. They can’t be so reliant on Watt’s health to win football games.