T.J. Watt entered the NFL with some big shoes to fill.
Not only is the Pittsburgh Steelers right outside linebacker the younger brother of all-world defensive end J.J. Watt, but during the offseason the rookie won the starting job over franchise legend and child thrower James Harrison.
In the Steelers’ close Week 1 victory over the Cleveland Browns, the younger Watt didn’t disappoint.
In fact, he put on a historic performance.
T.J. Watt sacked rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer twice and added an interception for good measure. He’s the first player in NFL history with two sacks and a pick in a Week 1 debut. The only other players to reach that milestone in a debut in any week were a pair of replacement players—Charles Glaze and Tommy Haynes—during the strike of 1987. They both did so in Week 3.
And Watt’s big plays were consequential. With the Browns knocking on the door and on the Steelers’ 9-yard line early in the third quarter, Watt took Kizer down on third down to force a field goal, saving four points in a game the Steelers won 21-18.
— Brian E. Roach (SCU) (@CannonsDontThun) September 10, 2017
Watt and the rest of the Steelers defensive front set up camp in the Browns backfield all day, combining for seven QB takedowns behind the line of scrimmage.
The rookie out of Wisconsin ended Cleveland’s next drive with an interception and a 17-yard return.
— NFL (@NFL) September 10, 2017
“That was all mine,” Watt said of the interception. “We practice catching those and that was mine to get. Just trying to make a play, doesn’t matter if it’s in the pass game or the run game.”
Heading into the season, head coach Mike Tomlin offered Watt high praise as the 22-year-old beat out Harrison, 39, for the starting gig.
“He’s been in that position really since Day 0,” Tomlin said of Watt. “You don’t like to anoint people. You like to watch them earn it. We didn’t put it on paper. But it won’t be like he’ll be in a new position when he gets here on Wednesday. He’ll be in the same spot in the huddle he was in yesterday.”