Certain players just have it right? There are certain players that come a long once in a while that just change everything when they take the field. Most of the time it’s a quarterback when it comes to NFL football. In Pittsburgh however, that player comes in the form of an edge rusher. Simply put, TJ Watt makes everything better in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers are 2-0 when Watt is in the lineup in 2022, 1-6 without him. Pittsburgh is 1-10 all time without their reigning defensive player of the year on the field. There may not be a single player more important to his team’s success than Watt to the Steelers. Let’s take a closer look at the the affect Watt has on this team:
The same week TJ Watt returns to the lineup, Alex Highsmith earns himself Defensive Player of the Week honors. Coincidence? We think not. There have been more than a few weeks this season where we have actively wondered if Mr. Highsmith was even on the field. Watt’s return means Highsmith is no longer the focus of opposing offenses. The same can be said for Cam Heyward who has also been virtually invisible since the Watt injury.
The secondary also benefits greatly from the return of the Steelers best player. The margin of error of this team’s corners is much greater now that the pass rush is at full force. Pittsburgh was without Minkah Fitzpatrick, Akhello Witherspoon, and William Jackson III on Sunday, and yet the secondary barely missed a beat. The Saints finished the day with 174 yards passing, and only ten points in TJ Watt’s return to action.
We talked about the impact on margin for error for the secondary, but that also holds true for the offense as well. With the defense back to it’s normal dominant self due to Watt’s return, the pressure is largely taken off of the underperforming offense. The Steelers can afford to be patient with their running game knowing they will not fall helplessly behind in games.
That in turn helps develop rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett. Not having to constantly play from behind only helps a young quarterback. TJ Watt’s impact on the defense benefits the offense as well to a great degree.
Did we mention the Steelers are 1-10 without TJ Watt? We have our issues with a lot of what this coaching staff does, but none of that seems to matter when Watt is in the lineup. No one is complaining about the burned timeouts, the questionable offensive play calling, or the defensive game plan this week. We have a saying on the Steelers Sanctuary Podcast..”TJ Watt absolves all the Steelers sins.” And this statement is 100% true. https://www.buzzsprout.com/1981237
Mike Tomlin had a very specific plan for the 2022 season. Dominate with defense, and bring the offense around slowly. Well that plan went sideways the minute Watt got injured. Without a dominant defense to lean on, and a conservative offense with a rookie quarterback, the Steelers found themselves almost completely out of the playoff picture. Now with Watt back, this team seems poised for a second half run. Are the Steelers primed for a second half run? It’s astonishing how much TJ Watt affects the overall play of this team. Anyone who doubts it just needs to watch.
If you like this post, hop on over to our Steelers Sanctuary Podcast for our latest episode here:https://www.buzzsprout.com/1981237/11695667-episode-47-steelers-win-but-are-things-any-better