Steelers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree come up with big plays against Browns
CLEVELAND — T.J. Watt was having the game of his NFL career, yet the Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker wanted to make one more play.
And the Steelers couldn’t afford anything less.
When the Cleveland Browns lined up for a 43-yard field goal with 13 seconds left in overtime, it was their shot to secure a sudden-death victory that would have marked their first win since 2016.
Watt got his shot when his left hand hit a piece of the ball on Zane Gonzalez’s kick to preserve a 21-21 final score in the season opener Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“When it snapped, I’m just trying to do my job and get penetration,” Watt said. “I threw my hand up at the last minute, and it hit my hand — and tie game.”
Watt celebrated the partially blocked kick, which prevented the Steelers from suffering an AFC North loss. If not for the unsatisfactory outcome, the Steelers would have been celebrating Watt’s game.
He overcame an unnecessary roughness penalty in the first quarter to finish with career highs of 11 tackles (eight solo) and four sacks, the second multi-sack game of his career.
Watt is the first Steeler with four sacks in a game since his position coach, Joey Porter, had as many at Tampa Bay in October, 2001. It’s the second most by a Steeler since the statistic became official in 1982. Chad Brown had 4 1 ⁄ 2 against Cincinnati in 1996.
Watt wasn’t alone as fellow outside linebacker Bud Dupree finished with five tackles (four solo), two quarterback hits, two passes defensed and a critical sack and forced fumble on the final play of the first half.
“Those guys have just been in the lab all season, getting better,” Steelers inside linebacker Vince Williams said. “They both have high expectations, both want to get double-digit sacks and I’m not really surprised by the pressure we were able to generate today.”
The play of Dupree and Watt was one of the positive signs for the Steelers. They blew a 14-point, second-half lead against the Browns, who were winless last season and went 1-15 the year before.
Dupree and Watt switched sides this offseason, with Watt moving to his more natural left side and Dupree switching to the right so he could rush the quarterback’s blind side.
“We’re getting more comfortable on each side, moving forward and trying to continue to get a lot of pressure,” Dupree said. “T.J. loves the left side, and I love the right side, too. Each week, we’ll get better. Each week, we’ll get more pressure, more times we’ll get after the quarterback.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin at [email protected] or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.