T. J. Watt

American football player (born 1994)

American football player
T. J. Watt
refer to caption
Watt with the Steelers in 2021
No. 90 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Position:Linebacker
Personal information
Born: (1994-10-11) October 11, 1994 (age 29)
Pewaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Height:6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Weight:252 lb (114 kg)
Career information
High school:Pewaukee
College:Wisconsin (2013–2016)
NFL draft:2017 / Round: 1 / Pick: 30
Career history
  • Pittsburgh Steelers (2017–present)
Roster status:Active
Career highlights and awards
NFL records
Career NFL statistics as of 2023
Total tackles:401
Sacks:96.5
Forced fumbles:27
Fumble recoveries:10
Interceptions:7
Pass deflections:45
Touchdowns:1
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR

Trent Jordan Watt (born October 11, 1994) is an American football linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the Wisconsin Badgers before being selected by the Steelers in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft.

Watt was a finalist for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award four times (2019–2021, 2023). He won the award in 2021, where he tied the single-season NFL record for most sacks, matching Michael Strahan's 22.5-sack record set in 2001. He is the younger brother of three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J. J. Watt and former fullback Derek Watt.

College career

Watt with the Badgers in 2017

Watt was rated a three-star prospect by various recruiting services coming out of Pewaukee High School.[1]

He started his collegiate career as a tight end for the Wisconsin Badgers.[2] Watt's knee was injured in the 2014 season, keeping him out until the middle of the 2015 season.[3] He did not play a game from October 2012 to September 2015.[4]

In July 2015 Watt was asked by head coach Paul Chryst to switch to a defensive position as a redshirt sophomore.[2] Badgers' outside linebackers coach Tim Tibesar recalled Watt's position change, saying, "At that time, even though he was in his third fall at Wisconsin, it was kind of like having a freshman come in. You're trying to teach him for the first time how to play outside 'backer in our system."[5] After the fourth game of his junior season, he led the Big Ten Conference in sacks.[2] In the Michigan State game, he was named the Big Ten Player of the Week and was given the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week Award.[2]

During the 2016 season, Watt recorded 59 total tackles and 11.5 sacks.[6] Additionally, he recorded an interception and a defensive touchdown during the Badgers' game against Purdue.[7] Watt also received first-team All-American honors by Sports Illustrated and ESPN, and second-team honors by the Associated Press, CBS Sports, and Fox Sports for his play during the 2016 season.[8] On November 29, 2016, Watt was named first-team All-Big Ten.[9] On January 3, 2017, Watt announced on Twitter that he would forgo his senior season and enter the 2017 NFL draft.[10]

College statistics

Season Team GP Tackles Interceptions Fumbles
Cmb Solo Ast Sck Int Yds Avg TD PD FF FR
2013 Wisconsin 0 Redshirt Redshirt
2014 Wisconsin 0 did not play due to injury
2015 Wisconsin 8 7 3 4 0.0 0 0 0.0 0 2 0 0
2016 Wisconsin 14 63 38 25 11.5 1 17 17.0 1 4 2 1
Career 22 70 41 29 11.5 1 17 17.0 1 6 2 1

Professional career

Pre-draft

Watt received an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine as one of the top edge rushers in the draft and completed all the combine drills. Among linebackers, Watt finished second in the vertical jump and three-cone drill, tied for first in the broad jump (with Jabrill Peppers), and also tied for first in the short shuttle.[11] He attended Wisconsin's pro day, along with Dare Ogunbowale, Vince Biegel, Corey Clement, Sojourn Shelton, and six other teammates.[12] Green Bay Packers' general manager Ted Thompson and Pittsburgh Steelers' head coach Mike Tomlin were among the 65 team representatives and scouts present for his pro day as Pittsburgh Steelers' linebacker's coach Joey Porter, Carolina Panthers' and New York Jets' outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene led Watt's positional drills. The majority of NFL draft experts and analysts projected Watt to be a late first round or second round pick. He was ranked the second best outside linebacker in the draft by NFLDraftScout.com, ranked the fourth best outside linebacker by NFL analyst Bucky Brooks, and was ranked the ninth best edge rusher by Sports Illustrated.[13][14] ESPN also ranked Watt the 44th best prospect available in the draft.[15]

External videos
video icon T. J. Watt’s NFL Combine workout
video icon T. J. Watt runs the 40-yard dash in 4.69 seconds
Pre-draft measurables
Height Weight Arm length Hand span 40-yard dash 10-yard split 20-yard split 20-yard shuttle Three-cone drill Vertical jump Broad jump Bench press
6 ft 4+12 in
(1.94 m)
252 lb
(114 kg)
33+18 in
(0.84 m)
11 in
(0.28 m)
4.69 s 1.59 s 2.71 s 4.13 s 6.79 s 37 in
(0.94 m)
10 ft 8 in
(3.25 m)
21 reps
All values from NFL Combine[16][17]
External videos
video icon Steelers draft T. J. Watt 30th overall
video icon NFL Draft Profile: T. J. Watt

2017

The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Watt in the first round with the 30th overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft.[18] Watt was the fourth linebacker selected and the second outside linebacker.[19] He was also the fourth linebacker taken in the first round by the Steelers since 2013.[20] On June 14, 2017, the Steelers signed Watt to a fully guaranteed, four-year, $9.25 million contract with a signing bonus of $4.87 million.[21][22][23]

He entered training camp competing with James Harrison for the starting right outside linebacker position. Watt was named the Steelers' starting right outside linebacker to begin the regular season.[24] Watt saw action in the NFL for the first time in the team's first preseason game against the New York Giants, where he made two sacks in the 20–12 victory.[25]

External videos
video icon T. J. Watt Week 1 highlights
video icon Top 10 T. J. Watt plays of 2017
video icon T. J. Watt puts game in ice with last second strip sack

Watt made his professional regular season debut and first NFL start in the Steelers' season-opener against the Cleveland Browns on September 10, 2017, where he recorded seven combined tackles, two sacks, and intercepted a pass from quarterback DeShone Kizer, as the Steelers won by a score of 21–18.[26] He became the first rookie to start at linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers since Aaron Jones in 1988.[27] The following week, he assisted on two tackles before leaving during the first half of the Steelers' 26–9 victory over the Minnesota Vikings with a groin injury. He was declared out for Week 3 against the Chicago Bears.[28] On October 22, 2017, Watt made six combined tackles and made his fourth sack of the season on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton during the Steelers' 29–14 victory.[29] He tied Bud Dupree (2014) and LaMarr Woodley (2007) for the franchise record for most sacks by a rookie with his fourth.[30] On December 10, 2017, Watt recorded his first career forced fumble when he sacked Baltimore Raven's quarterback Joe Flacco with 12 seconds remaining in the game.[31] The ball went out of bounds, but the game clock continued to run. Both teams seemed unaware of this until referees declared that the game was over. Watt finished his rookie season with 54 combined tackles (40 solo), seven pass deflections, seven sacks, one forced fumble, and an interception in 15 games.[32]

The Pittsburgh Steelers finished atop the AFC North with a 13–3 record and earned a playoff berth. On January 14, 2018, Watt started his first NFL playoff game and recorded two combined tackles and deflected a pass in a narrow 45–42 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the American Football Conference (AFC) Divisional Round.[33]

2018

Watt entered training camp slated as a starting left outside linebacker. Head coach Mike Tomlin named Watt and Bud Dupree, who was now on the right side, the starting outside linebackers to begin the season, alongside inside linebackers Vince Williams and Jon Bostic.[34]

External videos
video icon T. J. Watt strip sacks Ryan and Fort recovers for TD
video icon Top 5 T. J. Watt plays vs. Browns in Week 1

Watt started in the season-opener at the Browns and recorded a season-high ten combined tackles (seven solo), three sacks, and blocked a potential game-winning field goal during overtime in a 21–21 tie.[35] He earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance.[36] On October 7, 2018, Watt recorded eight combined tackles, tied his season-high of three sacks, and forced a fumble in the Steelers’ 41–17 win against the Atlanta Falcons. His performance earned him his second AFC Defensive Player of the Week award of the year.[37] He started in all 16 games in 2018 and recorded 68 combined tackles (50 solo), 13 sacks, six forced fumbles, and three pass deflections.[38] After the season, Watt was ranked 93rd on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2019.[39]

2019

Watt in 2019

In Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks, Watt recorded six tackles and made his first sack of the season on Russell Wilson in the 28–26 loss.[40] In Week 3 against the San Francisco 49ers, Watt recorded his first interception of the season off Jimmy Garoppolo in the 24–20 loss.[41] In Week 8 against the Miami Dolphins, Watt recorded two sacks on Ryan Fitzpatrick, one of which was a strip sack that he forced and recovered, in the 27–14 win.[42] For his performance in November, Watt earned AFC Defensive Player of the Month. In Week 14 against the Arizona Cardinals, Watt recorded his second interception of the season in the end zone off a pass thrown by Kyler Murray during the 23–17 win.[43]

By the end of his third season, Watt had established himself as one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL, tallying an AFC-high 14.5 sacks and a league-high eight forced fumbles.[44] He was named to the Pro Bowl.[45] He was voted Team MVP by his teammates, being the first defensive player to win the award since Troy Polamalu in 2010. Watt was voted All-Pro as both edge rusher (1st Team) and linebacker (2nd Team).[46] He was also nominated for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, finishing third in voting.[47] Following the season, Watt was ranked 25th by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2020.[48]

2020

On March 17, 2020, the Steelers signed Watt's older brother Derek, putting the two brothers on the same team.[49] On April 28, 2020, the Steelers exercised the fifth-year option on Watt's contract.[50]

In Week 1 against the Giants, Watt recorded his lone interception of the season off a pass thrown by Daniel Jones during the 26–16 win.[51] In Week 2 against the Denver Broncos, Watt recorded his first 2.5 sacks of the season on Jeff Driskel during the 26–21 win.[52] He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in Week 2.[53] On October 1, 2020, Watt was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for his performance in September.[54] In week 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Watt recorded two sacks on rookie quarterback Joe Burrow during the 36–10 win.[55] In Week 12 against the Baltimore Ravens, Watt recorded two sacks on Robert Griffin III during the 19–14 win.[56] Watt was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for his performance in November.[57] In Week 16 against the Indianapolis Colts, Watt recorded two sacks on Philip Rivers, including a strip sack that was recovered by teammate Mike Hilton, during the 28–24 comeback win.[58] On December 31, 2020, for the second straight season, Watt was voted Team MVP by his teammates.[59][60] Despite leading the NFL in sacks (15), tackles for loss (23) and quarterback hits (41),[61] he finished second in voting for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.[62] Watt played in the Steelers lone playoff game, recording three combined tackles and deflected a pass as the Steelers lost to the Browns 48–37 in the AFC Wild Card Round.[63] He earned Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro honors.[64][65] Prior to the upcoming season, Watt's peers voted him ninth on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2021.[66]

2021

On September 9, 2021, Watt and the Steelers agreed to a four-year extension worth over $112 million with $80 million guaranteed, making him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL.[67] In Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills, Watt made three tackles and two sacks on quarterback Josh Allen, one of which Watt also forced a fumble which was recovered by teammate Cameron Heyward in the 23–16 win.[68] The following week, Watt recorded four tackles, one sack and one forced fumble against the Las Vegas Raiders before leaving the game with a groin injury. He was later ruled out for Week 3. In Week 6 against the Seahawks, Watt played a large role in the 23–20 win in overtime, tallying seven total tackles, three tackles for loss, three passes defended, and two sacks, one of which was a strip sack in overtime that led to the game-winning field goal.[69] He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in Week 6.[70] In Week 13, Watt was a huge factor in helping the Steelers defeat the Ravens, 20–19. He had six combined tackles (five solo), 3.5 sacks, three tackles for loss, six quarterback hits and a forced fumble.[71] With 12 seconds remaining in the game and the Steelers ahead by one point, the Ravens attempted a 2-point conversion for the win. Watt was able to put pressure on Lamar Jackson and disrupt the pass, sealing the victory for his team.[72] His performance earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week.[73] In the Steelers’ 19–13 win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 15, Watt recorded 1.5 sacks on quarterback Ryan Tannehill.[74] This gave Watt a total of 17.5 sacks on the season, a franchise record, surpassing the mark previously set by James Harrison in 2008.[75] In Week 17, Watt earned his third AFC Defensive Player of the Week for the year, in a victory over the Browns, 26–14. In this game, Watt recorded five tackles (all solo), four sacks, three tackles for loss, five quarterback hits and two passes defended.[76] On January 6, 2022, the Steelers named Watt their Team MVP. He became the only player in team history to win the award in three-straight seasons. In Week 18, Watt tied Michael Strahan's 20-year old NFL single-season sack record, with a sack of Baltimore's Tyler Huntley during their 16–13 overtime win.[77] Despite missing two games and parts of three others, Watt ended the regular season leading the league in sacks (22.5), tackles for loss (21) and quarterback hits (39) for the second year in a row.[78][79][80] He was named to the Pro Bowl and earned First Team All-Pro honors.[81][82]

In the AFC Wild Card Round against the Kansas City Chiefs, Watt recovered a fumble forced by teammate Cameron Heyward and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown in the first half of the 42–21 loss.[83]

At the 11th Annual NFL Honors, Watt won NFL Defensive Player of the Year.[84] He was ranked sixth by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2022.[85]

2022

In Week 1 against the Bengals, Watt left the game in the fourth quarter with a torn pectoral muscle during the 23–20 overtime win, after attempting to sack quarterback Joe Burrow.[86] He was placed on injured reserve. [87]

On October 8, it was reported that Watt had recently undergone arthroscopic knee surgery for an injury sustained in the preseason.[88] On October 26, the Steelers opened the 21-day practice window for Watt's return.[89] He was activated from injured reserve on November 11, 2022.[90]

He finished the 2022 season with 39 tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble, and a career low 5.5 sacks in 10 games played. Despite this, Watt was voted to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl. After the season, Watt was ranked 27th on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2023.[91][92]

2023

In Week 1, a 30–7 loss to the 49ers, Watt would serve as one of the few bright spots for the Steelers as he sacked 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy three times, two of which resulted in forced fumbles. In addition, his three sacks brought his career total to 80.5, tying the Steelers franchise record set by James Harrison.[93] In Week 2, Watt broke Harrison's franchise sack record by sacking Deshaun Watson and bringing his career total to 81.5. Watt later recovered a Watson fumble forced by teammate Alex Highsmith and returned it 16 yards for the game-winning touchdown in the 26–22 victory over the Browns.[94] For his strong performance in the first 3 games of the season, Watt was named AFC Defensive Player of the Month for September.[95] On January 2, 2024, the Steelers named Watt Team MVP for the fourth time. He is now tied with Antonio Brown in that category. In Week 18, Watt would record two sacks in the season finale versus the Ravens before leaving the game late in the third quarter with a Grade 2 MCL sprain. This brought his total to 19.0 sacks on the year, the second time he has reached that total, (only his brother J. J. Watt, DeMarcus Ware, and Mark Gastineau have reached that mark twice). He also became the first player to lead the NFL in sacks three times, since sacks became an official stat in 1982.[96] For his performance in Week 18, Watt was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after recording eight tackles (six solo), two sacks, three tackles for loss, and two quarterback hits. He finished the 2023 season with 68 tackles, 19 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, one interception and a defensive touchdown.

On January 15, 2024, Watt was inactive for the Steelers playoff game against the Bills due to a knee injury.[97] The Steelers lost the game, 31–17, and were eliminated from the playoffs.[98]

NFL career statistics

Legend
NFL Defensive Player of the Year
NFL record
Led the league
Bold Career high

Regular season

Year Team Games Tackles Interceptions Fumbles
GP GS Cmb Solo Ast Sck TFL QBH Int Yds TD PD FF FR Yds TD
2017 PIT 15 15 54 40 14 7.0 10 13 1 17 0 7 1 0 0 0
2018 PIT 16 16 68 50 18 13.0 12 21 0 0 0 3 6 0 0 0
2019 PIT 16 16 55 35 20 14.5 14 36 2 7 0 8 8 4 0 0
2020 PIT 15 15 53 43 10 15.0 23 41 1 0 0 7 2 0 0 0
2021 PIT 15 15 64 48 16 22.5 21 39 0 0 0 7 5 3 1 0
2022 PIT 10 10 39 27 12 5.5 8 12 2 0 0 5 1 0 0 0
2023 PIT 17 17 68 48 20 19.0 19 36 1 24 0 8 4 3 34 1
Career 104 104 401 291 110 96.5 107 198 7 48 0 45 27 10 35 1

Postseason

Year Team Games Tackles Interceptions Fumbles
GP GS Cmb Solo Ast Sck TFL QBH Int Yds TD PD FF FR Yds TD
2017 PIT 1 1 2 1 1 0.0 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
2020 PIT 1 1 3 2 1 0.0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
2021 PIT 1 1 3 3 0 1.0 2 3 0 0 0 1 0 1 26 1
2023 PIT 0 0 did not play due to injury
Career 3 3 8 6 2 1.0 3 5 0 0 0 3 0 1 26 1

Awards and highlights

NFL

NFL records

Pittsburgh Steelers records

  • Sacks, single season: 22.5[121]
  • Sacks, career: 96.5[122]
  • Quarterback hits, career: 198
  • 4× Team MVP (2019–2021, 2023) (tied with Antonio Brown)[123]

College

Personal life

Watt is the youngest of three sons of Connie and John Watt, and was raised in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. His father was a firefighter for 25 years and his mother is the vice president of an independent inspections company. He has two older brothers, J. J. and Derek, who both played at the University of Wisconsin[126] before going onto NFL careers. Derek is a former fullback who was college teammates with T. J. from 2012 to 2015. He was selected in the sixth round by the then-San Diego Chargers with the 198th overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. He also was T. J.'s teammate with the Steelers from 2020 to 2022. Eldest brother J. J. is a former three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and five-time All-Pro defensive end who was selected by the Houston Texans with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

During his time at Wisconsin, Watt majored in retailing and consumer behavior.[127]

He married professional soccer player Dani Rhodes on July 9, 2022.[128]

Notes

  1. ^ Selected as a linebacker
  2. ^ Selected as a linebacker
  3. ^ Award given to the NFL annual sacks leader

References

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