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Interception King? T.J. Watt Finding New Ways to Make Plays: ‘I’ve Never Seen Plays Like That’

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Steelers OLB TJ Watt

PITTSBURGH — After three games in the 2022 season, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt, the reigning two-time NFL sack leader, Defensive Player of the Year, and the all-time NFL record holder for most sacks in a season, has more interceptions than sacks.

Watt hauled in his second interception of the season in Sunday night’s 37-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, and it was a carbon copy of the first one, in Week 1. 

Engaged with Bengals tackle La’el Collins, Watt leapt up at the line of scrimmage and snared the ball directly out of the air. He did it in Cincinnati in Week 1 and again in Pittsburgh in Week 11, both off the arm of Bengals star quarterback Joe Burrow.

The nature of the play for an NFL defensive lineman is extremely unusual. For Watt, though, it’s just another part of what he feels he can bring to the table.

“It’s something that I’m constantly trying to work on,” Watt said. “I’m going to always try to make a play, even though I can’t get the quarterback all the time. I just happened to come down with it.”

Watt’s teammates aren’t surprised by it, either.

“It’s crazy, but they practice it, though, so it’s nothing new,” said cornerback Levi Wallace, who also had a more-normal interception of Burrow after a ball tipped by Robert Spillane. “I’m glad he’s on our team. The guy is super talented. That’s the second pick I’ve seen like that. He’s a great player. When he makes plays like that, I’m not surprised. The first day of training camp practice, he made one of those plays.”

For Burrow, he’s not happy about any interception, but when it’s of the variety that he’s thrown to Watt, he admits there’s not a lot he can do to stop it from happening.

“Man, that guy,’’ Burrow said. “I’ve never seen plays like that made before from a defensive lineman. And he’s made two against me this year. I would love to say there’s something I can do about that, but there’s just nothing I can do about that.”

Watt is now one behind Wallace and Minkah Fitzpatrick for the team lead in interceptions. But it’s probably more likely that the NFL’s sack king racks up most of his statistical contributions for the rest of the season in that category. He had a half of a sack, shared with Alex Highsmith, on Sunday, and had at least one more good chance to put Burrow on the ground, but wasn’t able to.

“I only get so many one-on-ones in a game,” Watt said. “When I get them, I need to execute, and I need to finish on the quarterback. I wasn’t able to do that tonight.”

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