Jan 9, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) and outside linebacker Alex Highsmith (56) sack sBaltimore Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley (2) during the second  quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers’ T.J. Watt ties NFL season sack record

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt matched the NFL’s official single-season sack record of 22.5 by corralling Baltimore Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley in the final minute of the first half of Sunday’s game.

The sack allowed Watt to tie Michael Strahan, who set the record in 2001 for the New York Giants.

The Ravens had first-and-goal at the Pittsburgh 3-yard line when Huntley dropped back to pass and Watt recorded the big sack with 23 seconds left in the half.

The score was knotted at 3 at halftime.

Watt had 3.5 sacks against Baltimore in this season’s first meeting, won 20-19 by the Steelers on Dec. 5.

Sacks didn’t become an official stat until 1982. Al “Bubba” Baker of the Detroit Lions registered 23 in 1978, an unofficial record.

–Field Level Media

Dec 9, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) looks on before the game gainst the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

T.J. Watt, Cooper Kupp chasing hallowed NFL records

One of the most compelling storylines entering the final week of the regular season is whether Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt will set a new single-season NFL sack record.

Watt brought himself within one of Michael Strahan’s record of 22.5 set in 2001 with a career-high four sacks of Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield on Monday night. Pittsburgh closes the season at Baltimore, with both teams still mathematically in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the AFC, although they both need a win and significant help.

Watt leads the NFL with 21.5 sacks this season, followed by Chicago’s Robert Quinn (18.0), Cleveland’s Myles Garrett (15.0), San Francisco’s Nick Bosa (15.0) and Cincinnati’s Trey Hendrickson (14.0).

BetMGM is offering +180 odds that the sack record will be broken in Week 18, compared to -225 odds that the outright record will either be tied or not reached. The season-long struggles of Baltimore’s offensive line had contributed to 98 percent of the bets and 99 percent of the money backing the record to be broken shortly after the sportsbook posted the prop bet.

By contrast, DraftKings is offering -130 odds that Watt will record at least 1.5 sacks on Sunday.

Watt cleared COVID-19 protocols in time to record 3.5 of his 21.5 sacks this season in a 20-19 Steelers win at home against the Ravens last month.

Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson has missed the past three games with an ankle injury and didn’t practice Wednesday. If he can’t play Sunday, Tyler Huntley will get the start.

There has been some debate as to whether an asterisk should be associated with single-season records that are set with the NFL moving to a 17-game schedule. However, Watt will be listed as the officially record holder by the NFL if he breaks Strahan’s mark.

Watt did miss two games earlier this season and has already joined Reggie White as the only players in NFL history to record at least 21 sacks in 14 games or less. Watt and White are also the only players in league history with at least 13 sacks in four consecutive seasons since the NFL officially began tracking sacks in 1982.

Just before this season, Watt inked a four-year, $112 million contract extension that made him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player. He was the runner-up for NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2020 and is averaging 0.93 sacks per game since entering the league in 2017 – the most in league history.

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp will also be chasing two of the league’s most hallowed records on Sunday.

He currently leads the NFL in catches (138), receptions (1,829) and touchdowns (15). Kupp has a chance to break Calvin Johnson’s record of 1,964 receiving yards set with Detroit in 2012.

The Lions’ quarterback that season? That would be current Rams signal-caller Matthew Stafford.

Kupp has recorded at least 136 receiving yards in three different games this season. He had 11 catches for 122 yards in the first meeting against San Francisco this season.

He also needs 11 receptions to tie Michael Thomas’ record for catches in a single season.

DraftKings is offering +160 odds that Kupp will record over 135.5 receiving yards and +380 odds that he will have more than 11.5 receptions.

However, Kupp said Monday that breaking the record “wouldn’t hold the same weight” by accomplishing the feat in a 17-game season.

“In all honesty, in my opinion, we’re in a very unique season,” he said. “We’re the longest football season ever played.

“What the guys did that set those records – Mike Thomas, Randy Moss for the touchdowns, what Calvin Johnson did with the yards. 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.

“Those are incredible things, incredible accomplishments. You kind of have to separate the two. I have just an incredible respect for what those guys were able to do, what they were able to accomplish and what they were able to produce for their teams in those 16 games.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) warms up before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers put OLB T.J. Watt on COVID list

The Pittsburgh Steelers placed pass rush specialist T.J. Watt on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday.

Watt, 27, is second in the NFL with 12.5 sacks.

It’s unclear if Watt tested positive or is a close contact of someone who did. Watt’s vaccination status will be a determining factor toward his availability to play this Sunday.

Watt returned to action Sunday against Cincinnati after missing Week 11 with hip and knee injuries. Watt has started nine games this season and has 41 tackles, four passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He also has 13 tackles for loss.

Just before the season, Watt inked a four-year, $112 million contract extension that made him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player. He was the runner-up for NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2020.

He is a two-time All-Pro.

The Steelers fell to 5-5-1 after a blowout loss to Cincinnati on Sunday and play division-leading Baltimore in Week 13. The Steelers have given up 82 points the past two weeks.

–Field Level Media

Nov 14, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers team trainers attend to outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) as his brother fullback Derek Watt (44) looks on during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Heinz Field. The game ended in a 16-16 tie. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Report: T.J. Watt (knee, hip) expected to miss time

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt is considered week-to-week with knee and hip injuries sustained in Sunday’s game and is expected to miss some time.

NFL Network reported Watt will undergo an MRI on Monday. The team doesn’t think Watt’s injuries are season-ending, per the report.

Watt grabbed his leg following a play in the second half in which he sacked Lions quarterback Jared Goff. Watt’s teammate and brother, Derek Watt, helped him up, and the star defender was able to walk off under his own power.

Watt has 12.5 sacks in Pittsburgh’s eight games this season. He is the NFL co-leader in tackles for loss with 13.

Just before the season, Watt inked a four-year, $112 million contract extension that made him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player. He was the runner-up for NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2020.

The 27-year-old is a two-time All-Pro.

–Field Level Media

Nov 8, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) looks on before the game against the Chicago Bears at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers’ T.J. Watt injures hip, exits game vs. Lions

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt left Sunday’s game against the visiting Detroit Lions with a hip injury.

Watt grabbed his leg following a play in the second half in which he sacked Lions quarterback Jared Goff. Watt’s teammate and brother, Derek Watt, helped him up and the star defender was able to walk off under his own power.

The Steelers ruled Watt questionable to return.

Just before the season, Watt inked a four year, $112 million contract extension that made him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player. He was the runner-up for NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2020 and has 12.5 sacks this season, counting Sunday’s.

–Field Level Media

Sep 12, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) following the game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers LB T.J. Watt (groin) returns to practice

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt was a full participant in practice Thursday and could be in line to play Sunday’s road game against the Green Bay Packers after missing last week’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Watt, 26, sustained a groin injury during the first half of a 26-17 Week 2 home loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. He played just 16 snaps against the Raiders.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection has three sacks, six quarterback hits, seven tackles and two forced fumbles so far this season.

Sunday’s game will mark something of a return home for Watt, who is a native of the Milwaukee area. He was a first-round draft pick by the Steelers (No. 30 overall) in 2017 out of Wisconsin.

–Field Level Media

Sep 12, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) warms up prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers LB T.J. Watt (groin) ruled out vs. Bengals

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt will not play Sunday against the visiting Cincinnati Bengals due to a groin injury.

Watt was a limited participant in Friday’s practice but was downgraded Saturday to out for the Week 3 contest.

Watt, 26, sustained the injury during the first half of last week’s 26-17 home loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection has three sacks, six quarterback hits, seven tackles and two forced fumbles so far this season.

The Steelers will also be without their other starting OLB Alex Highsmith, also due to a groin injury. Backups Melvin Ingram III and Jamir Jones are expected to start.

–Field Level Media

Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt tackles Las Vegas Raiders running back Kenyan Drake during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers LB T.J. Watt (groin) ruled out vs. Raiders

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt sustained a groin injury in the first half and is out for the remainder of Sunday’s game against the visiting Las Vegas Raiders.

Watt remained on the sideline without his helmet and gloves. He registered four tackles, one sack and a forced fumble prior to the injury.

The Steelers downgraded Watt from questionable to out in the second quarter and defensive lineman Tyson Alualu, carted off with a leg injury, was also ruled out. NFL Network reported Alualu fractured his right ankle.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro, Watt became the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL after signing a four-year contract worth $112,011,000.

Watt, 26, has started 64 games for the Steelers since entering the league. He has seven tackles and three sacks this season.

–Field Level Media

Sep 12, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) takes a drink against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive force T.J. Watt leads Steelers against Raiders

T.J. Watt’s performance in his first game as the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history — and as the reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Year — was certainly up to his standards.

The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker looks to follow up with another stellar outing when the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) host the Las Vegas Raiders (1-0) on Sunday afternoon.

The 26-year-old Watt signed a four-year, $112 million extension just days before the start of the season. He then recorded two sacks and a forced fumble in last weekend’s 23-16 road victory over the Buffalo Bills.

The strip-sack of Buffalo’s Josh Allen was Watt’s 18th career forced fumble in just 63 regular-season games. He has 51.5 sacks.

Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward was amazed that Watt was in top form right out of the gate.

“For him to go out there and handle it the way he handled it and capitalize on it, with a win like this, pretty proud of him,” Heyward told reporters. “I know it wasn’t always pretty for him. He wanted to be out there with us.”

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr surely isn’t as happy about seeing Watt on the other side of the ball.

Watt registered an NFL-best 15 sacks last season — his third straight season of at least 13. And everywhere Carr looks, Watt will seemingly be in the vicinity.

“He’s fun to watch from afar and I admire his game, but (it’s an) exciting challenge for us also to go against him,” Carr told reporters. “He got his new contract and deserves every penny. That’s easy to see, but it’s also fun to compete against the best.”

Carr was superb in the Raiders’ season-opening 33-27 overtime win over the visiting Baltimore Ravens. He completed 34 of 56 passes for 435 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Las Vegas rolled up 491 yards and 26 first downs against a Baltimore squad known for rugged defense.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden expects a battle against the Steelers, who allowed just one touchdown in their win over the Bills.

“They’re going to be a challenge,” Gruden told reporters. “They, too, are unorthodox. They present a lot of different looks, and we have our work cut out for us on a short week.”

Las Vegas defensive end Maxx Crosby was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after having two sacks and also accumulating two losses on running plays.

Since Crosby was able to corral the speedy Lamar Jackson, there’s a good chance he’ll run into Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at some point Sunday.

“Obviously he’s not as athletic as Lamar Jackson,” Crosby told reporters with a laugh. “Lamar is kind of an anomaly in a way, but Big Ben is a great quarterback.

“Big Ben is a hell of a player, he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. We’re definitely looking forward to it and I’m excited.”

Crosby and Roethlisberger have mutual admiration as both are products of Mid-American Conference schools. Crosby played at Eastern Michigan while Roethlisberger starred at Miami (Ohio).

“Nothing surprises me because he’s from the MAC and that’s where the best football players come from,” Roethlisberger said of Crosby. “He’s a stud.”

Roethlisberger completed 18 of 32 passes for 188 yards and one touchdown in the win over the Bills.

Steelers linebacker Robert Spillane (shin) could miss his second straight game while the Raiders’ Wednesday injury report listed 17 players, including two who are done for the year with knee injuries in guard Denzelle Good and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

Also not practicing were guard Richie Incognito (calf), running back Josh Jacobs (toe, ankle), linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (concussion), backup quarterback Marcus Mariota (quadriceps), defensive end Carl Nassib (pectoral, toe) and safety Roderic Teamer (ankle).

The Raiders have won five of the past seven meetings, including a 24-21 home win in 2018 in the most recent matchup.

–Field Level Media

Dec 21, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) celebrates with inside linebacker Avery Williamson (51) during the third quarter at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Steelers, T.J. Watt reach $112M extension

T.J. Watt will become the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, as he and the Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to a four-year contract extension worth at least $112 million, NFL Network and ESPN reported Thursday.

Watt’s new deal will include $80 million fully guaranteed at signing, according to NFL Network.

The 26-year-old outside linebacker has played and started in 62 of a possible 64 games for the Steelers since entering the league. He has already racked up 49 1/2 sacks, including a league-leading 15 last season.

The runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year in 2020 was entering the fifth-year option of his rookie contract with Pittsburgh and had drawn-out negotiations with the team over the offseason.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger recently said Watt deserved to make “whatever he wants,” adding that it was for the benefit of teammates like Watt that Roethlisberger took a voluntary pay cut this year.

Guaranteed money was reportedly the sticking point between Watt and the Steelers. Watt’s $80 million guaranteed at signing is the fourth-highest number in the NFL, according to Spotrac, behind only quarterbacks Josh Allen, Dak Prescott and Matt Ryan.

Watt was the 30th overall draft pick in 2017, and at the time was best known for being J.J. Watt’s younger brother. His talent as a pass-rusher translated from Wisconsin to the NFL, where his sack totals have increased every season.

–Field Level Media