Maximizing T.J. Watt's Impact: 3 key strategies to unlock success for Steelers

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No matter how many blockers you throw at him, T.J. Watt always seems to find a way to make his presence felt. This doesn't always come as a pass rusher. Against the Rams in Week 7, Watt dropped back into coverage, read QB Matthew Stafford like a book, picked off the pass, and returned it back to the seven-yard line. Week after week, the Steelers star creates a splash for this team.

Unfortunately, it does seem like opposing coaches have cracked the code when it comes to partially neutralizing his ability as a pass rusher. In recent weeks, Watt has been constantly double-teamed and even triple-teamed at times. On most pass rush reps, they chip him with a tight end or running back to help ease the burden of the offensive tackle.

This initial chip slows Watt's momentum and makes it harder to generate pressure consistently. Mike Tomlin can either stand idly by and watch other teams try to take his best player out of the game, or he can counter with some minor adjustments and make T.J. Watt look even better than he already is. Here are three things the Pittsburgh Steelers must do to help.

3. T.J. Watt must play fewer defensive snaps

This one might seem a bit backward. How can Watt maximize his impact if he's watching from the sidelines? The answer is pretty simple: he needs more rest. Entering Week 8 of the 2023 season, Watt has played more snaps per game than any NFL edge defender not named Maxx Crosby.

For some perspective, the Steelers and Browns have both played six games and each team has had their bye week, but Watt is outsnapping Myles Garrett 356 to 271 on the season, per Pro Football Reference. The Dallas Cowboys have a dominant pass-rush duo in Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence, yet these two defensive stars have combined to play 507 snaps on the season.

The answer isn't always more T.J. Watt. Allowing him more time to rest and recover on the sidelines will, by default, increase his pressure rate and pass-rush win rate. The Steelers need to allow their best player to be 100 percent when he's on the field -- even if it means playing him significantly fewer snaps per game.