Skip to main content

Steelers HC Mike Tomlin: T.J. Watt is 'best defensive player on the planet right now' 

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense finally showed up to the party in Week 12. The defense has been here the entire time.

The Steelers' D kept the club afloat and spearheaded them into playoff position. Pittsburgh hasn't allowed an opponent to earn 20 points in the past seven contests, allowing them to go 5-2 over that stretch despite an offense that played so poorly that head coach Mike Tomlin fired the offensive coordinator last week.

The Steelers defense has been suffocating despite significant contributors missing time, including star defensive tackle Cameron Heyward and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.

The key to Pittsburgh's stellar performances through it all: T.J. Watt.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year is tied for the league lead with 13.5 sacks (with Danielle Hunter, who has played one more game through Week 12). Watt has generated 25 QB hits, 12 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, six passes defended and an interception.

"Not only for the defense but for our football team," Tomlin said on Tuesday, via the team’s official website. "There is a lot to learn from him in terms of how he goes about his business, how he works to maximize his talent level. What he does to maintain a level of production.

"Let's be honest. T.J. is the best defensive player on the planet right now. And he proves that week in and week out with the plays that he delivers us."

The tandem of Watt and the underrated Alex Highsmith has pushed the Steelers to playoff positioning despite being outscored by 23 net points through 11 games.

Watt generated two sacks in Week 12 at Cincinnati, his 20th career game with two-plus sacks. The Steelers edge rusher needs one more game with two-plus sacks in 2023 to tie his brother J.J. -- 21 games -- for the fifth-most contests with two-plus sacks in a player's first seven seasons.

Watt has produced despite opponents scheming to slow him down.

"I get a bird's eye view of it. I see the lengths that people go through to minimize his impact on the game," Tomlin said on Tuesday. "I know the type of games that we've been in close ball games and you know how, at times it minimizes a guy that plays his position's ability to impact the game. None of those things slow down that train that we all know what's coming. And so we're just appreciative of it."

The best could be on the way for Watt. Per the team, in 29 career December games, Watt has 21.5 career sacks, 48 quarterback hits and nine forced fumbles.

Related Content