Can record-equalling linebacker T.J. Watt assist propel the Steelers to victory over the star quarterback Mahomes and the Chiefs of their AFC Wild Card conflict at Arrowhead Stadium? Discover out reside on Sky Sports activities NFL from 1am on Monday
By Marc Bazeley
Final Up to date: 15/01/22 1:58pm
Going into the AFC Wild Card showdown between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas Metropolis Chiefs, a lot of the main focus will inevitably be on the battle between quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Patrick Mahomes.
It’s your basic contest of expertise versus youth: the grizzled, gunslinging, two-time Tremendous Bowl winner looking for one final hurrah versus one of many present-day faces of the NFL and Madden cowl star aiming so as to add to his already sizeable fame by lifting a second Vince Lombardi Trophy.
If, nonetheless, the Steelers are to ship Roethlisberger out on a excessive at SoFi Stadium on February 13 in what is anticipated by many to be the 39-year-old’s last season then lots of these hopes could relaxation on the sizeable shoulders of the person voted by his team-mates because the franchise’s Most Precious Participant for the third yr operating.
Trent Jordan Watt – higher often called ‘T.J.’ – is just not solely the center of Pittsburgh’s defensive unit, however has additionally emerged as some of the dominant defensive gamers within the NFL. This was underlined by him equalling the single-season sack document in final Sunday’s 16-13 additional time win over the Baltimore Ravens which helped clinch an unbelievable play-off berth going into the ultimate day of the common season.
“Succinctly it simply speaks to his degree of dominance, and the place he’s in his profession by way of expertise and expertise, and find that mesh level between expertise and youth,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin stated final week, reflecting on Watt as soon as once more being honoured by his team-mates.
“He is younger sufficient the place he is acquired the fuel to do the issues that he must do. He is within the prime of his profession. He has gained sufficient expertise in order that he can play the above-the-neck sport and make the crucial selections in conditions that enable him to make these splash performs that we consider once we consider him.
“And his teammates simply merely recognise that we’re speaking a couple of man who a couple of years in the past was third within the [NFL] Defensive Participant of the 12 months voting; final yr he was second within the voting, and this yr he is the favorite.
“And so, from a crew perspective, that clearly places him in place to probably be the MVP, and his team-mates are stating the apparent.”
Watt’s accomplishment in reaching 22.5 sacks when he ran down Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley within the second quarter final Sunday matched the document set by former New York Giants defensive finish Michael Strahan manner again in 2001 – and he might effectively have damaged it had a first-quarter hit on Huntley not been dominated a compelled fumble.
To place that in some type of context, even the nice Lawrence Taylor, the one linebacker to be named NFL MVP, by no means managed greater than 20.5 sacks in a season and that got here in 1986, when the game-changing Giants icon was the league’s greatest participant.
It’s no shock that alongside together with his elder brother J.J, the Arizona Cardinals defensive finish and two-time NFL single-season sacks chief who’s combating to be match for his or her NFC Wild Card showdown with the Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh’s Watt is an opponent quarterbacks throughout the league are at all times cautious of.
T.J. is just not solely particular, however so far as the way in which he can bend to get to the quarterback, however the effort he performs with.
Patrick Mahomes on the hazard posed by T.J. Watt
Certainly, although he – together with Minnesota Vikings signal-caller Kirk Cousins – has been sacked the fewest occasions (28) of every other common beginning quarterback this season, Chiefs star Mahomes is effectively conscious the 27-year-old will likely be gunning for him at Arrowhead Stadium within the early hours of Monday morning UK time.
“He is a particular participant,” Mahomes stated. “I imply, I do not know what runs in that household, however they’ve nice soccer gamers over there and also you stated it; T.J. is just not solely particular, however so far as the way in which he can bend to get to the quarterback, however the effort he performs with.
“They’ve numerous guys like that over there, Cam Heyward, [Alex] Highsmith. I imply they’ve numerous guys that play arduous your complete sport they usually constantly play and go and go. So, for me, it is about every time I do make these prolonged lengthy performs, not making a nasty play occur.
“These guys will form of be round me the entire time following the play so after I scramble and step up within the pocket when the stuffs not there, I’ve to verify I account for them as a result of they don’t seem to be going to surrender on the play.”
Mahomes and the Chiefs will head into the showdown buoyed by the actual fact they already have one over on the Steelers again on December 26, with a 36-10 win which stored Andy Reid’s facet on the right track for a sixth-straight AFC West title.
However, Watt’s affect extends past simply what he does on the gridiron and Tomlin will likely be hoping the work his defensive chief does in coaching serving to and driving his team-mates to higher themselves involves the fore as effectively.
“I am not going to faux that he is heat and fuzzy,” Tomlin stated. “I am speaking about in a really technical manner – ‘Hey, learn the stance; Hey, when this man’s ft are parallel, that is what you are getting; Hey, you bought to acknowledge that formation.
“‘Hey, is the tight finish’s helmet breaking the waistline of the deal with? Or is he fully off the ball? If he is fully off the ball, you have to be alert to probably him going behind the road of scrimmage on the snap to the opposite exterior linebacker’.
January 17, 2022, 1:00am
“I imply, it is strictly soccer, it is very scientific, however that is simply his method. It’s no-nonsense. That is the way in which he mentors.”
A no-nonsense method, it’s subsequently honest to say, off the sector in addition to on it. Time will inform if that may assist Pittsburgh sprint Kansas Metropolis’s goals of constructing the Tremendous Bowl for the third yr operating.
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