TJ Watt didn't get the sack that would have gotten him over the hump to earn the record for most sacks on the field, but the Steelers were hoping to get him the record by filing an appeal.
In politics, conventional wisdom for a losing electoral candidate in a close race is to appeal to the courts for a recount. For the Steelers, it seems conventional wisdom for failing to break the record is to appeal to the NFL for a recount as well.
According to USA Today, "the Steelers filed an appeal with Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistician of the NFL," hoping to get the linebacker the sack record.
How did the Steelers' appeal for TJ Watt's record turn out?
During the game against the Baltimore Ravens, TJ Watt tackled backup quarterback Tyler Huntley after a bad snap. Watt knocked the ball to the ground, but Huntley was ruled a runner; therefore, he was not credited with a sack. The Steelers' appeal to turn the play from a tackle for loss into a sack failed, as the team was denied, according to Total Pro Sports.
Elias Sports Bureau upheld the decision made by the statisticians in Baltimore.
It is easy to infer which side record-holder Michael Strahan and challenger TJ Watt were on. Watt made it even clearer, according to statements made to Sports Illustrated via Total Pro Sports.
“It was empty [backfield] and there was a bad snap,” he told Sports Illustrated. “[Tyler Huntley] fell on it, but then he got up. And when he got back up on his two feet. I tackled him and got the ball out. So, I mean, he very well could have still thrown the ball. My understanding was that it was a sack, but apparently, it wasn’t, at least, according to the statisticians.”
With an overturned tackle for loss, Watt would have had 23.5 sacks. It would have placed him as the sole owner of the record. Instead, Watt merely tied Michael Strahan for the most sacks in a season at 22.5. However, the detractors would be the first to say that it took Watt an 18 week season to match what Strahan did in 17 weeks.
Even if Watt had set the record, detractors would have had an argument. However, one could argue that the new sack record would likely have a short life expectancy. One side effect of adding an extra game is that every player has an extra chance to tie a record.
With only one 18-week season in the books, players have only had one shot to break records. As such, those that set records likely set a lower record than what is coming in future years as players get more chances to break records. Put simply, in terms of records, this is only the beginning.