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Can T.J. Watt Keep NFL Lead in Sacks, QB Hits & TFL without Playing vs. Browns?

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Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt will sit out the team’s regular-season finale at Cleveland on Sunday, according to a report by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

That means that Watt will stand pat with his league lead for quarterback sacks, quarterback hits and tackles for loss. He could become just the fifth player since quarterback hits became an official stat in 2006 to lead the league in all three categories, if his lead can hold. Can someone else pass Watt? Let’s take a look.

NFL TACKLES FOR LOSS LEADERS

23, T.J. Watt, Steelers
17, Roquan Smith, Chicago
15, Devin White, Tampa Bay
15, Joey Bosa, LA Chargers

The NFL record for tackles for a loss in a game in six, held by a half-dozen players, including Joey Bosa and T.J.’s brother J.J. Watt, who did it twice. So it’s technically possible that Roquan Smith could have a monster game and tie Watt’s tackle for loss total, but it seems pretty unlikely.

QB HIT LEADERS

41, T.J. Watt, Steelers
31 Carl Lawson, Cincinnati
28, Chris Jones, Kansas City
27, Joey Bosa LA Chargers
26, Aaron Donald, LA Rams
Carl Lawson and the Bengals are facing notoriously tough-to-hit Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, and just about everyone else seems pretty comfortably out of reach of Watt’s 41 quarterback hits over 15 games.

NFL SACKS LEADERS

15.0, T.J. Watt, Steelers
13.5, Aaron Donald, LA Rams
12.5, Trey Hendrickson, New Orleans
12.5, Haason Reddick, Arizona
12.5, Za’Darius Smith, Green Bay
12.0, Myles Garrett, Cleveland

There’s clearly a few players that could catch Watt in this category, most notably Rams monster defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who needs just 1.5 to tie Watt and two sacks to pass him. The Rams host Haason Reddick and Arizona in a game with playoff implications for both teams.

The Saints have clinched the NFC South, but can earn a bye with a win over Carolina and a Green Bay loss at Chicago.

Cleveland is in a near-must-win scenario against Pittsburgh, with Garrett potentially getting to tee off against a Pittsburgh offensive line that reportedly will not include center and leader Maurkice Pouncey.

Derek Thomas once had seven sacks in a game for the Kansas City Chiefs and 15 current players, including Donald and Reddick have had four or more in a game, so Watt’s top mark is certainly in jeopardy here.

Watt not playing against the Browns would also mean that he will not be able to set the franchise record for sacks in a season. Watt needed one sack to tie and 1.5 sacks to pass James Harrison, who set the mark with 16 sacks in 2008. Watt is currently tied with Mike Merriweather, who had 15 sacks in 1984, for second place.

Steelers

Report: Ben Roethlisberger Wants JuJu Smith-Schuster to Return to Steelers for 2021

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Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is expected to return to the team, according to a report by NFL Network, and he apparently also wants wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to return to the team with him.

NFL Network’s Mike Garafalo reported that Roethlisberger has communicated to the team that he wants Smith-Schuster back for the 2021 season.


Roethlisberger has one season left on his contract, which carries a $41 million cap hit, including $19 million of salary. Smith-Schuster is set to become a free agent for the first time in his career after making $1.04 million in 2020.

Roethlisberger’s contract is a big part of a money crunch that has the Steelers as much as $40 million over the 2021 salary cap entering the offseason.

Smith-Schuster is expected to make as much as $15 million per year on a market-value contract.

It’s not clear how the Steelers would be able to fit both Roethlisberger and Smith-Schuster under the 2021 salary cap. Roethlisberger would almost certainly have to take a significant pay cut.

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Steelers

Report: Steelers to Promote Matt Canada to Offensive Coordinator

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The Steelers are expected to promote quarterback coach Matt Canada to offensive coordinator, according to a report by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Randy Fichtner, who had held the job since 2018, was not retained as the team’s offensive coordinator the team announced, the team announced on Thursday.

Canada, 48, spent his first season in the NFL with the Steelers in 2020 as quarterbacks coach. He had also been a candidate to become offensive coordinator at Miami.

A native of New Palestine, Indiana, Canada has been a coordinator at multiple stop at the collegiate level. He was most recently Maryland’s offensive coordinator and interim head coach in 2018, guiding the Terrapins to 5-7 record after the firing of D.J. Durkin following the death of a player in an offseason workout.

Before that, Canada was a coordinator at LSU, Pitt, NC State, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Indiana and Butler.

At Pitt in 2016, Canada was a finalist for the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach after leading the Panthers to a program record in points scored. He coached NFL quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett at NC State and Nate Peterman at Pitt. Steelers running backs James Conner (Pitt), Anthony McFarland (Maryland) and Jaylen Samuels (NC State) all played under Canada.

Canada is the sixth offensive coordinator hired by the Steelers in the last 20 years and all but one of them have been internal promotions.

The Steelers will need to replace Canada as quarterbacks coach, as well as tight ends coach James Daniel, who retired, and offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett, who was not retained, on the offensive staff.

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Report: Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger Expected to Return for 2021

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Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is expected to return for the 2021 season, according to a report by Mike Garafolo of NFL Network.

Roethlisberger, 38, said after the season that he would take time to consult with his family and think about whether he wanted to return for an 18th NFL season.

Head coach Mike Tomlin said earlier this week that the Steelers would welcome a return by Roethlisberger.

In 2020, Roethlisberger started all but one game for the Steelers, as he was rested in the regular season finale against Cleveland. In 15 regular season games, he threw for 3,803 yards while completing 65.6 percent of his passes, 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Roethlisberger pushed the ball downfield less in 2020 than he has in the past, which his 6.3 yards per attempt the lowest full-season mark of his career. Pro Football Focus rated him as the 25th-most effective quarterback in the NFL this season and the worst of the four starters in the AFC North.

In Pittsburgh’s postseason loss to Cleveland, Roethlisberger set an NFL record for completions in a game while racking up four touchdowns and 501 passing yards, but also threw four interceptions.


His contract is a potential sticking point, as he is set to earn $19 million in salary in 2021 in addition to a $22 million deferred signing bonus from the last time he signed a contract that must be paid out, whether Roethlisberger plays or not.

Depending on the final salary cap figure, the Steelers could be as much as $40 million over the salary cap entering the 2021 offseason.

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