T.J. Watt proves his worth to Pittsburgh Steelers with monster performance

RON COOK
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) celebrates after a sack during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)

Is it just me or did T.J. Watt earn his $112 million extension Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks?

It's not much of a stretch to say Watt is the only reason the Steelers escaped with a 23-20 win in overtime.

Watt's biggest play was a strip-sack of quarterback Geno Smith midway through the overtime period, setting up Chris Boswell's game-winning 37-yard field goal with 2:50 left. But it hardly was Watt's only big play.

The man finished with seven tackles, two sacks, two quarterback hits, three defended passes, three tackles for losses and a forced fumble.

It might have been the greatest defensive performance at Heinz Field since James Harrison destroyed the Baltimore Ravens in 2007 with 3 1/2 sacks, an interception, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

About the only thing Watt didn't do was body-slam the idiot fan who ran on the field after Seattle's second play. You know what Harrison would have done, right? He slammed a lout to the turf in Cleveland on Christmas Eve in 2005. Watt and the other Steelers defensive players were disappointing by comparison, allowing security personnel to do the dirty work.

Coincidentally, Harrison was at the game Sunday night as part of the Steelers' alumni weekend.

Harrison had to love the rest of Watt's game, to be sure.

The Steelers defense needed all of Watt's big plays after melting down in the second half. It blew a 14-0 halftime lead and a 20-17 lead in the final two minutes of regulation.

The Seahawks managed just 65 total yards in the first half, including 18 rushing. The Steelers defense was spectacular. It looked as if the Steelers would roll to an easy win.

But for the second week in a row, the defense tried to give the game away. A week earlier, it gave up 75- and 72-yard touchdown drives to the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter, nearly wasting a 24-6 lead. It needed James Pierre's interception in the end zone on the Broncos' final play to save a 27-19 win.

A collapse Sunday night might have been worse.

The Steelers, suddenly, couldn't stop the Seattle running game, which produced 126 yards in the second half and overtime. The Seahawks had consecutive touchdown drives of 75 and 60 yards in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 17-14. They then tied the game late by going 50 yards in nine plays to set up Jason Myers' 43-yard field goal on the final play of regulation.

At that point, it seemed it would be shame if the Steelers ended up with the win.

Ben Roethlisberger's offense managed just two second-half field goals against the Seattle defense, which came in as the NFL's worst after giving up at least 450 yards in the Seahawks' previous four games. It had to punt on the Steelers' first possession of overtime and can credit one man for getting the ball back and giving it a chance to win on Boswell's kick.

Watt.

So the Steelers head into their bye week with a 3-3 record. They hardly are in good shape, trailing the first-place Baltimore Ravens by two games in the AFC North Division. But things could be so much worse.

No one deserves a week off more than Watt.