PITTSBURGH — The score wouldn’t necessarily suggest it, but Sunday was a record-setting day for the Pittsburgh Steelers in their 19-13 win over the Tennessee Titans.
Outside linebacker T.J. Watt set the Steelers’ franchise record for single-season sacks against the Titans, two decades after James Harrison set it against the same team.
#RP @steelers: A message from @jharrison9292 to @_TJWatt #HereWeGo #Steelers pic.twitter.com/G66JTiMcHt
— James Harrison (@jharrison9292) December 19, 2021
“T.J., congratulations on breaking my record and becoming the Steelers’ new single-season sack-record holder,” Harrison said in a video posted to social media. “But why stop there? Go on ahead and chase down that NFL single-season sack record and become the new holder of that, too.”
Watt’s third-quarter, third-down sack of Ryan Tannehill gave him a league-leading 17 sacks this season, eclipsing Harrison’s 16-sack mark set in 2008. With 66.5 career sacks, Watt has the third-most sacks by a player in his first five seasons since 1982. Only Reggie White (81) and Watt’s older brother, J.J. Watt (74.5), have more.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Watt said. “The historic franchise that we have here. There is so much work to do, I really can’t stop and think about stuff like that. Just finished a game, got a win, but it means nothing if we don’t handle business this next week.”
The sack was record-breaking, but it wasn’t Watt’s only splash play of the afternoon. The NFL’s highest-paid defensive player also recovered a fumble created by a botched snap in the fourth quarter — one of four turnovers forced by the Steelers’ defense.
“Splash plays are always an equalizer,” defensive end Cam Heyward said. “How many turnovers did we get? Four? Man, they came at crucial times and got us back in the game, gave us the lead. We’ve been saying the dam is going to break. You’ve got to keep practicing. And the practicing and the drills we’re doing are starting to pay off.”
T.J. Watt was back Sunday after missing a large part of the Dec. 9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings with a groin injury. He briefly left Sunday’s win because of an injury but was back a play later.
Earlier in the game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit a milestone of his own. With a 3-yard pass to running back Najee Harris in the second quarter, Roethlisberger surpassed Philip Rivers for fifth on the NFL’s all-time passing yards list with 63,443 yards.
“It means I’ve played a long time,” Roethlisberger said earlier in the week about the prospect of passing Rivers. “Those are things you look back on and reflect on when you’re done. Anytime you get up there with — I’d even call him a legend, he’s in my draft class, but still a good football player and a legend. It’s cool, but we’ve just been playing a long time.”
Roethlisberger also scored his first rushing touchdown since 2018, getting into the end zone on the second of back-to-back quarterback sneaks in the third quarter.
“It’s been a while,” he said. “They didn’t feel real good. My neck’s going to be a little sore for sure, but glad we could get in on the second one.”
Roethlisberger’s score was the Steelers’ only touchdown of the game. The rest came on four field goals from Chris Boswell, all scored after turnovers forced by the Steelers’ defense.
The Steelers finished with just 168 yards of offense — the first time they’ve won with less than 200 yards of offense with Roethlisberger at quarterback. It was also their fewest yards in a win since Week 2 of 2010, a victory that came against the Titans with Dennis Dixon at quarterback.
Roethlisberger now has 40 wins after trailing in the fourth quarter, the third most by a starting quarterback in NFL history after Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
The news was not all good for the Steelers, however. They lost tight end Pat Freiermuth to a concussion, and defensive end Chris Wormley, who had a sack early, couldn’t finish the game because of a groin injury.