Gold Lot Sports presents "Man Crush Monday" featuring Steeler Linebacker T.J. Watt

Don Wright/Associated Press


Man Crush Monday is a new weekly segment from Gold Lot Sports where we will showcase one Pittsburgh athlete each Monday.  This particular athlete may have either had an outstanding weekend, a great past week overall, or we just think the Pittsburgh audience should know a little more about this player.

After an all-around great weekend for Pittsburgh sports, there was one athlete, in my eyes, that stood out above the rest.  With the Pittsburgh Steelers' backs up against the wall, linebacker T.J. Watt came up big in overtime to will the team to victory against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football.

Last night's game against the Seahawks was a rollercoaster ride for Steelers fans.  The team showed fans a full spectrum of their play this season - the good and the ugly.  The good came in the first half where the defense shutout the Seahawks and the offense was able to put two touchdowns on the board to take a 14-0 lead into halftime.  The ugly came in the second half when the Seahawks decided they were going to run the ball at will, and the Steelers defense looked lost on how to stop it.  Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, the offense lost all ability to move the ball effectively, tacking on two field goals as their only second half points.  When the clock expired at the end of the 4th quarter, the score was tied 20-20 and headed into overtime.

Overtime Heroics

The overtime period is when T.J. Watt showed he was worth all $112 million of his new contract.  The Seahawks won the coin toss and opted to receive the ball.  After moving the ball into Pittsburgh territory, the Seahawks had a crucial 3rd and 4 at the Steelers 45-yard line.  It was then that Watt busted around the edge, sacking backup quarterback Geno Smith and forcing a punt.  With the current overtime rules, this meant that the Steelers now just had to score to win the game.

Fittingly, the Steelers offense was unable to capitalize on the opportunity given to them by Watt, punting the ball back to Seattle after just three plays, with 4:27 remaining in overtime.  A win at this point seemed bleak and Steeler fans were willing to settle for a tie.  Seattle, who had been running the ball effectively, looked destined to move the ball into field goal range for the game-winning score.  That is when Watt took matters into his own hands, again.

On the very first play of the drive, Smith moved up in the pocket looking to run, when Watt came from behind and stripped the quarterback, leading to a fumble recovery by the Steeler teammate Devin Bush on the Seattle 16 yard line.  Kicker Chris Boswell was able to nail a game-winning field goal and send the Steelers into their bye week with a crucial win.

Watt finished the game with seven tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble - impressive stats to say the least.  But those numbers don't do justice to just how important his play was to this team, not only in this game but to the season as a whole.  The Steelers had no business taking a game to overtime against a team missing both their starting quarterback and running back, especially when coming out of the half with a 14-0 lead.  But with morale waning from both the players and fans, Watt gave everyone something to be excited about.  

Brighter Team Outlook

A loss would have given the Steelers a 2-4 record heading into their bye.  The Baltimore Ravens sit atop the division with a 5-1 record, with the Cincinnati Bengals not too far behind at 4-2.  That would have put the Steelers in a tough hole to dig themselves out of in order to stay in contention within the division.  

Instead, they are now 3-3.  Certainly not an ideal record at this point of the season, but a record that is by no means out of it.  The bye week will give them a great chance to regroup and get healthy, while also building on this pivotal win .  Waiting for them out of the bye week is a banged up Cleveland Browns team who have lost both starting running backs and quarterback Baker Mayfield is nursing a left shoulder injury.  A 3-game win streak is becoming very obtainable.

As for Watt's play, he continues to prove the Steelers right in giving him that large contract before the season started.  Any player who can single-handedly have an effect on the outcome of a game like he did last night is worth the big bucks, especially a defensive player.  Watt was a disruption all night, adding three batted balls at the line of the scrimmage to his stats.  

It's this kind of play that makes the Steelers defense such a tough matchup for any team.  As evidenced in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills, the team most would consider the AFC favorite right now, Watt and this defense are capable of keeping the Steelers in any game, regardless of how poor the offense might be playing.  While Pittsburgh saw many good performances over the weekend, Watt's was certainly the most crucial to his team and that is why he is my Man Crush Monday.

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