(Photo via T.J. Watt's Instagram)
The Watt family had quite a day last Sunday as they totaled 4.5 sacks combined, 2.5 from the Steelers’ TJ, and 2 from the Texans’ JJ. Not to be outdone by his brothers, Pittsburgh’s Derek Watt tallied 2 tackles on special teams and forced a crucial safety on a mishandled punt, helping his and TJ’s team capture a win over the Denver Broncos. The three brothers have unwavering support for one another off the field. This is evident on Twitter where you can find the siblings praising each other after each sack, turnover, or critical special teams tackle. However, next Sunday at Heinz field will be different for the Watts. For three hours, the brothers will be divided as their teams face off in a Week 3 showdown as the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Houston Texans. There will undoubtedly be a healthy dose of competition between the brothers, especially between JJ and TJ as they both continue to be two of the NFL’s biggest game wreckers. Plenty of bragging rights will be on the line at Heinz Field this weekend, but which pass rusher has the edge this matchup? And what sort of impact will each player have on the outcome of the game?
The Case for JJ:
When it comes to past accolades, the eldest of the Watt brothers dominates the competition. JJ has accumulated 3 Defensive Player of the Year honors throughout his career, and barring injuries it is possible he could have had more. He is also the only player in NFL history to have recorded multiple 20-plus sack seasons. Unfortunately for the Texans defensive star, the injury bug has not shown him any mercy over the past few years. He has only been able to compete in at least 8 games in a season just one time over the past 4 years. While this is a concern, his production when healthy has not slowed. In his last healthy season, he shredded through opposing team’s offensive lines, collecting 16 sacks earning NFL First-Team All-Pro honors in 2018. As for this year, Watt has sacked the quarterback twice through 2 games, and he will look to build on that total as he takes on the banged-up Steelers line. Pittsburgh RG David DeCastro has missed both of the team’s first two games, so his status is up in the air for the week 3 affair. If he cannot go, it will be up to rookie Kevin Dotson to slow down the 5-time All-Pro. Dotson should be up for the challenge as he is coming off of an outstanding debut as he squared off against another star power rusher in Jurrell Casey. Per Pro Football Focus, Dotson did not allow a single pressure on 42 pass-blocking attempts against the Broncos. Watt should be able to buck this trend, but it certainly won’t be easy against the 2020 4th round selection. JJ will surely be fired up to play against his brothers, and with his squad staring at 0-3 in the eyes, he will bring his best game to Pittsburgh next week.
The case for TJ:
While TJ does not have as many accolades under his belt as his big brother, Watt has youth and recent success on his side. Just a year ago, the 25-year old finished 3rd in Defensive Player of the Year voting as he dropped the quarterback 14.5 times while also picking off 2 passes. Perhaps one of TJ’s greatest traits is that he has a nose for the ball. In 2018 and 2019, Watt forced 14 fumbles and defended 11 passes when Pittsburgh dropped him into coverage. Watt is one of the league’s most promising young stars, and he will look to further prove that on Sunday against a weak Houston offensive line. The Texans’ unit has allowed 57 pressures through just 2 games, a stat that has to make TJ and his fellow pass-rushers to salivate. Watt will square off against 2nd-year tackle Tytus Howard who had a strong rookie season in 2019. In 8 games, Howard only allowed 2 sacks. However, this week will be his biggest test yet as he is responsible for preventing Watt from getting into the backfield as well as keeping an eye out for the oft-blitzing Steelers defense. TJ is primed to have his best season as a professional yet, and he will be sure to add to his resume against the faltering Texans offensive line.
Both TJ and JJ should find a reasonable amount of success on Sunday but expect the Steelers’ TJ Watt to provide a larger impact on the outcome of the game. The youngest of the three brothers looked stronger than ever against the Denver Broncos, and he should be living in the backfield against Houston. Watch for TJ to create havoc and possibly force a fumble out of QB Deshaun Watson as he will be dipping and diving through a swarm of Steelers. JJ may have the career accolades to back him up, but TJ should have the bragging rights for this game as well as the future.