Plays of the Year: Watt ties Steelers sack record with 3 against 49ers

Steel City Underground presents “Plays of the Year” featuring the top runs, catches, hits and everything else in-between from the Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a rough season opener at Acrisure Stadium against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1 of the 2023 NFL regular season, but one player that was undeterred throughout the game was outside linebacker T.J. Watt.

This week, we look at all three sacks Watt earned against quarterback Brock Purdy as our highlight plays of the game and celebrate the fact that, in 90 less games, Watt was able to tie the Steelers franchise record for total career sacks that James Harrison (80.5) previously set.

The first sack by Watt on Purdy caused a bit of confusion on the field. With 9:10 left in the second quarter, Purdy took the snap at the Pittsburgh thirteen on a second-and-seven that he lost… but didn’t. When Watt hit the quarterback, the ball came loose and it appeared that Watt had recovered it.

The ruling on the field was that there was no fumble or recovery by Watt because Purdy was able to secure the ball (of all places) against his butt and lower back.

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Although Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin challenged the call, the decision was upheld and the 49ers were able to kick the field goal to go up 20-0 over Pittsburgh.

Watt’s second sack was at the 7:51 mark in the third quarter. From the shotgun, Purdy took the snap only to have Watt break free and dump him into the turf for a loss of nine yards.

Watt earned his third sack of the game, and 2023 NFL season, on the first offensive play of a series later in the same quarter. On 1st & 10 at the Pittsburgh 38, following a Steelers punt, Purdy once again took the snap from shotgun. Again, Watt blasted into the 49ers’ backfield and, instead of wrapping his arms around the quarterback, went straight for the ball. The result was a fumble and recovery.

The Steelers moved the ball down the field offensively after the big play, but were stopped at the San Francisco 8-yard line on third down. After an incomplete pass between Kenny Pickett and Pat Freiermuth, the ball was turned over on downs as the Steelers failed to make the needed four yards needed to earn a new set of downs.

Watt was on pace to exceed 50 sacks in 2023 at this pace, but ultimately finished the season with 19. That led the league and earned T.J. his third Deacon Jones award: the only player in NFL history to have won the award three times.

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