PITTSBURGH -- On a franchise known for its linebacker play, T.J. Watt has captured arguably the Steelers' most fabled single-season record. During the third quarter of Sunday's game against the Titans, Watt combined with Cam Heyward to sack Ryan Tannehill while raising his season sack total to 16.5 sacks, breaking James Harrison's franchise record for most sacks in a single season.
Watt, who sacked Tannehill again in the second half to raise his season total to 17.5 sacks, entered Sunday's game with 16 sacks despite missing two games earlier this season. He tied Harrison's record after recording 3.5 sacks of Lamar Jackson during last Sunday's 20-19 win over the Ravens. During that game, Watt joined Hall of Famer Reggie White as the only players in NFL history to record at least 13 sacks in four consecutive seasons.
The league's Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, Harrison tallied 16 sacks, 101 tackles, and a league-high seven forced fumbles that season. Harrison capped off his stellar campaign with a 100-yard interception return for a score in the Steelers' 27-23 win over the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Harrison, who didn't become a starter until he was 29 years old, was a Pro Bowler each season from 2007-11. In 2016, Harrison passed Jason Gildon as the franchise's career sack leader. A teammate of Watt's during Watt's rookie season, Harrison tallied 80.5 sacks during his time with the black and gold.
One of the top candidates to win Defensive Player of the Year, Watt could also become only the third defensive player to win league MVP. Watt's MVP candidacy was championed by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger earlier this month.
"T.J. is seriously one of the best players I've ever played against, and I've played against some really good defensive guys," Roethlisberger said. "He truly is a special player. I'm glad I've haven't been sacked by him. He is a game-changer and a game-wrecker. I've been a part of guys like that -- Troy Polamalu -- who can change a football game. It doesn't happen on defense that often. To be a literal game-changer on defense is something completely special.
"He should be recognized more than just [Defensvie Player of the Year]. He should absolutely get MVP votes as well because that's the type of player that he is."