Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is of the opinion that opposing offenses are employing extensive measures to impede the performance of star pass-rusher T.J. Watt and minimize his influence on games.
“I think T.J. encounters the same challenges as all elite pass rushers,” remarked Austin on Tuesday, as reported by ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. “These players will hold you until they can’t because often, that’s the only way they can block.”
According to Austin, Pittsburgh’s opponents are adopting a strategy reminiscent of the one employed against NBA Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal. However, unlike O’Neal, the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year doesn’t have the luxury of heading to the charity stripe in his line of work.
“It’s almost like the ‘Hack-a-Shaq,'” Austin noted, adding, “People would hack Shaq all the time, and he got fouled so much, and everybody knew it was a foul, but after a while, they didn’t call it because he was so doggone good.”
Watt himself expressed frustration after the Steelers’ Week 13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, citing the perceived lack of calls from officials.
“The NFL has something going against me,” Watt stated on Sunday. “So I don’t wanna talk any more negatively towards them. I don’t know what I did, but I’ll leave it at that.”
During the Week 13 contest, Watt missed several snaps, seemingly due to being held by Cardinals offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. Despite this, he concluded the game with six tackles, one tackle for loss, and 0.5 sacks.
Austin remains unconvinced that complaining will resolve the issue and emphasizes that the five-time Pro Bowler will need to persevere.
“We’re just going to play and fight through it, and T.J. will fight through it because he’s a good pro and a great player,” affirmed Austin.
Despite the concerted efforts to limit Watt’s impact, his impressive statistics, including 14 sacks, currently trail only Khalil Mack’s 15 for the league lead. Through 12 games, Watt has also accumulated 47 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, seven passes defended, and three forced fumbles.