The Pittsburgh Steelers got their best player back for Week 10, and T.J. Watt’s presence helped shape the outcome of their game vs the Saints.
It’s hard to deny the impact T.J. Watt makes on this football team. When he wasn’t on the field this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers were on a historically bad pace of generating pressure and getting after the quarterback. In addition, since he joined the team in 2017, Pittsburgh is just 1-10 in games when he isn’t able to suit up. It’s pretty safe to say that Watt’s presence makes a world of difference.
In his first game back from a pectoral injury and knee surgery, Watt was incredibly disruptive from the gate. He kicked things off by recording two defensive stops on his first defensive series and forced the Saints to punt deep into their own territory.
While Watt didn’t hog the stat line (as he recorded just 4 tackles and a QB hit), his impact couldn’t be measured in this contest. In addition to facing one of the better right tackles in the league in Ryan Ramczyk, Watt was constantly double-teamed against New Orleans. Yet, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year was still able to generate pressure.
Much of what Watt did in this game, he won’t get credited for. As Pittsburgh’s best player drew all of the attention, Alex Highsmith feasted on the opposite edge — recording 2.0 sacks, a tackle for a loss, a QB hit, and a forced fumble, according to ESPN stats.
The attention Watt demanded forced the ball to come out quickly and put QB Andy Dalton in some tough situations. This ultimately resulted in the Saints throwing two interceptions and turning the ball over on downs.
The Steelers are just different with Watt
Pittsburgh’s 20-10 victory over New Orleans was a brilliant team effort — specifically on the defensive side of the football. There are a number of players who deserve credit for strong performances in this one, but this team is simply different when T.J. Watt is on the field.
While the Saints certainly aren’t a threatening opponent, the Steelers were able to hold them to just 186 total offensive yards while allowing just 1.9 yards per carry and 4.1 yards per play. This defensive dominance allowed Pittsburgh to crush the time of possession battle — 38:56 to 21:04.
This team has now won or tied nearly 70 percent of games that T.J. Watt has been on the field for since entering the league in 2017. On the other hand, the Steelers win just 10 percent of games in his absence.
Obviously, there’s much more that goes into these numbers, but it’s not hard to measure his impact. In fact, it’s hard to make a case that there are a handful of non-quarterbacks around the NFL who make a bigger impact on their team than Watt does for the Steelers.
The Steelers will get much tougher defensive tasks this year, but as long as T.J. Watt is healthy and active, we can expect some rock-solid defensive performances. At 3-6, this team is going to need a lot more than just that, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.