For the past five-plus years, every time the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns have taken the field at full health has been a treat. That’s because the two teams have provided us with an absolute pass-rushing clinic between two 2017 first-round edge defenders, T.J. Watt for the Steelers and Myles Garrett for the Browns.
Monday night marks the first such game in over a year, because Watt was injured for the first game against the Browns in 2022, and at less than full health during the second, even if he still managed half a sack. Garrett, for his part, had one sack in his two games against Pittsburgh. On the eve of their next encounter, he gave Watt his due credit and spoke on how they fuel each other.
“T.J. finds a way to win. He’s a dog. He always has those second-effort plays. He can win inside, outside, he’s strong, he’s fast”, he said of the 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, via transcript provided by the Browns’ media department. “He doesn’t look as strong as he is, but the way he long-arms guys, the way he finds a way to fight through a double or single, it’s really impressive”.
Truth be told, Garrett isn’t wrong when he says that Watt may not look as strong as he actually is. He doesn’t have big, hulking muscles like some other elite pass rushers, including his older brother, J.J., or of course Garrett himself. But he is plenty strong enough, and has a full arsenal at his disposal.
“I have a lot of respect for his game, and him”, Garrett said. “Always look forward to doing my best out there at Pittsburgh. It’s just fun knowing that on the other end we have someone who’s at a similar caliber and trying their best as well”.
As you’ve probably heard earlier this week, Watt has been tremendously successful playing against the Browns over the years. He has recorded 15 sacks in just 10 games played. He also has 58 tackles and 18 tackles for loss, with four multi-sack games.
Garrett, by contrast, has recorded seven career sacks in 11 games against the Steelers, with 34 tackles and eight tackles for loss, his only multi-sack games against Pittsburgh coming back in 2018. At least individually, Watt has been getting the better out of these matchups.
Both of them are coming off of great games in the first week of the season, thought Garrett’s team as a whole was far more successful. The Browns blew out the Cincinnati Bengals, while Watt’s Steelers were blown out by the San Francisco 49ers.
It’s ultimately about the end result, as always. But a good way of getting there for any one individual is to play the best game that you possibly can and try to make difference-making plays within the scheme. Both of them are amply capable of that and have certainly left their mark in several of these games. Which one will impact this game more?