T.J. Watt's 2021 season will go down in history because he tied the NFL sack record. Watt had 22.5 sacks for the Pittsburgh Steelers in a season when they needed him to step up more than any other. What made his achievement even more impressive was that he played just 15 games.
While Watt had the season of a lifetime, some NFL teams struggled to generate a pass rush. One of those teams is the Atlanta Falcons, who finished with a 7-10 record.
The superstar linebacker had more sacks individually than the Falcons did as a team. That fact shows how ineffective the Falcons pass rush was and how dominant Watt was.
T.J. Watt had more sacks than the collective Atlanta Falcons defense
T.J. Watt played like a man possessed this season. After securing a contract extension in the offseason that made him the richest defensive player in NFL history, he delivered his most dominant season.
Meanwhile, the Falcons' pass rush was largely ineffective. They finished last in the league in sacks with just 18, four and a half fewer than Watt's season total.
Dante Fowler Jr. was their leader in sacks with a mere 4.5. But that's a disappointing total for the Falcons, who brought him in last season after an 11.5 sack season with the Los Angeles Rams.
While the Falcons were inept at rushing the passer, Watt wrecked every game he played when healthy. His 22.5 sacks helped the Steelers lead the NFL in sacks for a record-setting fifth straight season.
If it wasn't for T.J. Watt, the Steelers defense would've floundered due to injuries and roster turnovers from 2020. They led the league in sacks after losing Javon Hargrave in the offseason and have been without stalwart Stephon Tuitt all season.
Whether he was tallying sacks or forcing one of his five forced fumbles, Watt was the most valuable defender in the NFL this season.
Watt faces stiff competition from Aaron Donald, Myles Garrett and Micah Parsons for the defensive player of the year award.
The Steelers need T.J. Watt to play at his best against the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs to stand a chance. If Watt can come up with turnovers or sacks, the Steelers could pull off the upset.
While the Steelers focus on the Chiefs, the Falcons must address the defensive line as one of their top priorities this offseason. Otherwise, next season will be another season stuck in mediocrity.