On a night when everybody in black and gold was focused on sending Ben Roethlisberger out of Heinz Field a winner, it was linebacker T.J. Watt who made his mark, assuring the Cleveland Browns wouldn't have a chance at wrecking their plans.
Watt, who has been called a 'game-wrecker' by almost every opponent he has faced this season, was just that against the Browns, earning him the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his Week 17 performance.
He had four sacks in the Steelers 26-14 win over the Browns, giving him 21.5 on the season. Watt is one sack shy of tying Hall of Famer Michael Strahan's NFL single-season record of 22.5 sacks, set in 2001, and 1.5 shy of breaking the record with one game remaining this Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
Watt recorded five tackles against the Browns, including three for loss, the four sacks, five quarterback hits and two passes defensed.
His four sacks against the Browns are the most by a Steelers defender since Joey Porter had four sacks in 2001 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"The first year or two, I used to do big individual goals, 'X' amount of sacks, TFLs (tackles for loss), all that stuff," said Watt. "But it adds too much pressure. You start chasing and all that stuff. And now it's just trying to affect every game the best that I can and prepare. It's been working for me. So, I'm not really looking at goals like that anymore, just trying to be a game-wrecker."
Watt is one of only two players in NFL history to have 20 plus sacks in 14 or fewer games since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. Watt recorded his 21.5 sacks in 14 games, missing two games due to injury this season, and a good portion of a third game. The only other one to do it was the legendary Reggie White, who had 21 sacks in 12 games in 1987 in a strike-shortened season.
Watt also became the 12th player since sacks were counted as a statistic to have at least 20 sacks in a single season, something his brother, Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt, did twice.
Watt, who has 71 career sacks, also joined White and his brother, J.J. Watt, as the only players since 1982 to have 70 plus sacks in their first five seasons in the NFL.
This is the third time this season Watt has won AFC Defensive Player of the Week, doing so in the Week 6 win over the Seattle Seahawks and Week 13 vs. the Baltimore Ravens. This is also the sixth time Watt has won AFC Defensive Player of the Week.