How T.J. and J.J. Watt compare to the NFL's greatest brother duos
It's a shame that T.J. Watt tore his pec in the season opener and was sidelined for a couple of months. When healthy, the sack master has resembled a ballhawk.
Joe Burrow knows all about Watt's new forte. Before Watt was injured in Pittsburgh's Week 1 win over the Bengals, he blew up a handoff for a 4-yard loss, then one-upped himself on the next snap, leaping to make this dexterous grab at the line of scrimmage.
Last weekend, Watt shook off a block to intercept Burrow in the same manner. CBS analyst Adam Archuleta raved that it was an all-time defensive highlight.
Watt's two picks in three appearances this year upped his total career interceptions to six. The scope of his dominance is widening, though he returned too late to save the 3-7 Steelers' season and chase history. Watt entered 2022 as the NFL's back-to-back reigning sack leader and could have become the first official three-time leader in the category.
The season got away from Watt and his eldest brother, J.J., whose 4-7 Cardinals are spiraling out of the playoff picture. The two of them aren't used to flying below the radar. T.J.'s ace 2021 campaign produced the family's fourth Defensive Player of the Year nod - J.J. won the award in 2012, 2014, and 2015 - and sent a Watt to the Pro Bowl for the ninth time.
T.J.'s peers ranked him No. 6 in the NFL Top 100 ahead of the season, slotting him second among defenders behind Aaron Donald. J.J. topped the list in 2015 and only fell off this year. J.J. used to earn MVP votes, but T.J. surpassed his standard for hounding quarterbacks last year when he equaled Michael Strahan's single-season sack record in one fewer game played.
T.J.'s star turn strengthened the Watt football legacy. He's been a sack-per-game marauder since his second season. J.J. has authored a top-five career at defensive end, according to Pro Football Reference's Hall of Fame Monitor, which affirms that he's a shoo-in for Canton. The sons of a firefighter and a building operations executive made the Wisconsin family renowned.
They compare favorably to other great brother combos, as a stat called approximate value indicates. The PFR metric sums up a player's seasonal production in one number in order to evaluate performance across all positions.
J.J. set his career high in approximate value, 23, with the Texans in the 2014 season. T.J. peaked at 18 in 2020. Their career totals (125 for J.J. and 65 for T.J.) add up to 190, which puts them 11th in this rundown of star siblings.
AV isn't calculated until a season ends, so the Watts' 2022 numbers will boost them past the Sharpers and Upshaws. It's a crude comparison, but it contextualizes the company that the Watts keep.
Middle brother Derek Watt, T.J.'s Steelers teammate, owns a career AV of 1 but is distinguished in his own way. Prolific as a special teams tackler, he's one of the game's few remaining fullbacks: 17 players have lined up at the position this season, per Pro Football Focus. He forced a safety in 2020 when the Broncos botched a punt and snared his first career receiving touchdown a month ago, slipping open to fool the Eagles on fourth-and-goal.
Every Watt can glean positives from this year. Myriad injuries have hampered J.J. since the peak of his destructiveness in Houston, but the pending free agent is compiling his best season since 2018. His 5.5 sacks lead Arizona and are more than Donald has managed. J.J. didn't miss a game even when his heart was shocked into rhythm.
Meanwhile, the Steelers are 2-1 when T.J. plays after going 1-6 with him shelved. They missed him dearly. More than half of Pittsburgh's sacks this season (11 of 19) and two-thirds of the turnovers the defense has forced (nine of 14) came in his three appearances. The imbalance is staggering.
Pittsburgh's remaining schedule is weak: Baltimore is the only opponent left that has a winning record. They square off in Weeks 14 and 17, meaning T.J. could slow the Ravens' march to the postseason. He racked up nine sacks and 20 QB hits over their last six matchups.
Chances abound for the Cardinals to play spoiler. They face five playoff aspirants - the Chargers, Patriots, Buccaneers, Falcons, and 49ers - in the final seven weeks. Arizona's 31st-ranked defense has disappointed, but any dropback can be snuffed out when someone named Watt is on the field.
Nick Faris is a features writer at theScore.