Edge Rusher No. 2: T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers, OLB
If you were drawing up a prototypical rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, you would end up with T.J. Watt. You would be hard-pressed to find a better marriage of size, athleticism, skill set, and scheme in all of the NFL. Watt is relentlessness personified.
Because of the defense that he plays in, Watt gets more clean looks at quarterbacks than traditional defensive ends normally do, but Watt is not just a product of the Steelers' scheme. Since entering the league in 2017, no player in the NFL has more sacks (77.5) than Watt. In 2021, Watt tied the NFL record with 22.5 sacks and took home the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for his efforts.
Watt suffered a torn pectoral muscle in Week 1 of the 2022 campaign that limited the All-Pro edge defender to 10 games. The Steelers lost six of the seven games that Watt was forced to sit out. That is how much he means to their defense.
Outside of his rookie season, 2022 was the only year that Watt was unable to obtain double-digit sacks. It's almost impossible to imagine that Watt will not regain his status as one of the league’s most dominant pass rushers in 2023. As long as Watt is on the field the Steelers defense will pose problems for opposing quarterbacks.