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Steelers' T.J. Watt Unfazed by NFL Sack Record: 'Just Trying to Be a Game Wrecker'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 4, 2022

AP Photo/Matt Durisko

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt said he no longer sets individual goals based on statistics, so he's not overly focused on potentially breaking the NFL's single-season sack record in Week 18.

Watt recorded four sacks in Monday night's win over the Cleveland Browns, which brought his season total to 21.5. The official record is 22.5 by New York Giants legend Michael Strahan in 2001, though the Detroit Lions' Al Baker is credited with 23 in 1978 before sacks became an official statistic. Watt told reporters:

"The first year or two, I used to do big individual goals: 'x' amount of sacks, TFLs [tackles for loss], all that stuff. 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. ... It's been working for me. So I'm not really looking at goals like that any more, just trying to be a game-wrecker."

A lot of NFL records will fall in the coming years following the addition of a 17th game to the regular season ahead of the 2021 campaign.

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who's within striking distance of records for catches and receiving yards, suggested separate record-keeping for the different season lengths Monday:

"What those guys did in 16 games, it wouldn't seem right to, I don't know, for those to be broken in 17 games. It wouldn't hold the same weight to me as it does for guys that have done that in a 16-game season and the accomplishments those guys had and the seasons they put together. Those are incredible things, incredible accomplishments. You kind of have to separate the two."

In fairness to Watt, he's only going to end up playing 15 games this season because of groin and hip injuries, so there would be an extra layer of legitimacy if he sets the sack mark.

The 27-year-old University of Wisconsin product should have a golden opportunity to do exactly that when the Steelers close out the regular season Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

Baltimore has allowed an NFL-high 54 sacks in 2021, including 3.5 by Watt in the teams' first meeting in Week 13.

Lamar Jackson, who's been sidelined since Week 14 because of an ankle injury, has been sacked 38 times in 12 appearances, and his typical high-end movement would likely be hampered Sunday if he tries to return with the Ravens still holding slim playoff hopes.

Backup Tyler Huntley has been brought down 15 times in six games, while Josh Johnson was sacked once in his only appearance this season.

Whether or not Watt breaks the record, he's built a strong case in the Defensive Player of the Year race. Along with his league-high sack total, he's recorded 59 total tackles, six passes defended, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

While he's not focused on individual numbers, he'll have no shortage of motivation Sunday as the Steelers also remain active in the postseason race. They need a win over the Ravens and some help elsewhere around the NFL to make the playoffs.

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