Steelers win: Watt's franchise-best debut, Big Ben climbs all-time lists and more stats

There wasn't much mystery about what the Steelers were going to do in the 2017 NFL Draft. Unlike, say, 2008, when the team desperately needed to fix its offensive line and ended up taking running back Rashard Mendenhall 23rd overall because seven offensive linemen were already off the board, there was no such drama during this year's first round.

The first order of business came with the 30th overall selection, when the Steelers selected former Wisconsin pass rusher T.J. Watt. The hope was that he would be everything Jarvis Jones wasn't. Jones, who recorded 14.5 sacks during his final season at the University of Georgia, was taken 17th overall by the Steelers in 2013. Injuries and inconsistency plagued him during his four seasons in Pittsburgh and when the team chose not to re-sign him this offseason, he had totaled just six sacks in 50 games (35 starts).

Watt, meanwhile, logged two sacks in his very first preseason game. And while preseason is a mostly meaningless exercise, Watt made the most of it and earned a starting job ahead of the regular season. And when the Steelers took the field against the Browns, Watt picked up right where he left off. 

Watt again had two sacks -- this time against rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer -- and it included this nifty celebration:

"I was just having some fun, just trying to bring some energy," Watt explained after the game. "The guys love seeing a little celebration after a sack."

When it was over, the Steelers sacked Kizer on seven occasions, though Watt thought there could have been more.

"We felt like we were in the backfield all of the time, but we have to finish plays," he said. "We had a few sacks left on the table, from my point of view."

There's more: Watt also intercepted Kizer late in the third quarter:

Watt's final stat line: seven tackles, two sacks, an interception and a pass defended. For some perspective on just how good he was in his debut, consider this:

Do you know the last Steelers player to do what Watt did?

T.J. Watt 1, J.J. Watt 0:

Yes, it's just one game but Pro Football Focus' Pass Rushing Productivity metric rates Watt No. 8 in the NFL, just behind Chandler Jones, Vic Beasley and teammate Anthony Chickillo, who only got the start against the Browns because 2015 first-round pick Bud Dupree was sidelined with a shoulder injury.

We mention Dupree because he's even more freakishly athletic than Watt (both are 6-foot-4, both ran sub-4.7 40s at the combine). And while he was slowed early last season by a groin injury, when Dupree finally got on the field for the final two months of the season, he showed glimpses of his game-changing abilities, logging 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble. And in the wild-card round of the playoffs, he perpetrated this against Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore

The point: The Steelers could have two young, tenacious pass rushers in Dupree and Watt, and depth behind them with Chickillo (who also had two sacks against the Browns) and the ageless wonder, James Harrison. And if the secondary improves -- 2016 first-round pick Artie Burns and just-signed Joe Haden should allow the unit to play more man-to-man coverage, which is critically important for one very big reason -- this could be the year that the Steelers make it back to the Super Bowl

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves; Pittsburgh beat Cleveland, the same outfit that went 1-15 last season and started a rookie quarterback last Sunday. The playoffs, never mind the Super Bowl, are a long way off.

In the meantime, here are some other stats of note from the Steelers' win over the Browns:

Big Ben climbing record books

Ben Roethlisberger didn't have a spectacular afternoon, but he still threw for 263 yards with two touchdowns. And a few records:

Oh, and there's this not-so-fun fact if you're the Browns: Big Ben, Steelers quarterback, now has more wins in Cleveland than any Browns quarterback since the team returned to the NFL in 1999.

Roethlisberger is now 22-2 against the Browns all time, and 11-2 when playing in Cleveland. Derek Anderson, who played for the Browns from 2005-09 and was the last quarterback to lead the team to a winning record (10-6 in 2007), trails Big Ben with 10 wins in Cleveland.

Brown can't be stopped

Antonio Brown made his case for why he's the NFL's best receiver, singlehandedly putting the offense on his back -- including this ridiculous grab to wrap up the win:

And that came two quarters after this catch, which was tipped by a Browns defender. Didn't matter to Brown, apparently.

So this should come as no surprise:

Steelers find a tight end weapon

The Steelers traded for 49ers tight end Vance McDonald during the preseason to bolster the group but it was Jesse James, the team's 2015 fifth-round pick, who stood out on Sunday.

Looking ahead, the Steelers host the Vikings next Sunday.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories