PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin insists there is nothing “mystical” to the way outside linebacker T.J. Watt goes about his business.
The perennial All-Pro is talented. He's focused. He's relentless. And as of last month, he's also one of the highest-paid defenders in the NFL.
And he's playing like he's worth every penny.
Watt strip-sacked Seattle quarterback Geno Smith in the waning minutes of overtime on Sunday night. Teammate Devin Bush pounced on the loose ball to set up Chris Boswell's game-winning 36-yard field goal as the Steelers escaped with a 23-20 victory.
“I don’t think anyone is surprised about his ability to deliver in those moments,” Tomlin said of Watt.
Maybe, but Watt's second sack of the night, the one that helped the Steelers (3-3) win their second straight to reach .500 heading into their bye week, began innocently. Watt wasn't sure he had a path to Smith only to somehow thread his way to the former starter turned longtime backup. One mighty chop at Smith's right arm and the ball was on the ground.
“I don’t think I had a good rush or anything,” Watt said.
In the end, it didn't matter. Watt finished a remarkable game in which he knocked down three passes and recorded three tackles for loss by making the play that allowed Pittsburgh to avoid a deflating setback.
The Steelers have won two straight following a 1-3 start and will have two weeks to get ready for a visit to Cleveland on Halloween.
“It's kind of crazy, don’t know if it’s really sunk in yet,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "We got to our goal, which was to get to .500 before the bye, get healthy and get prepared for a long stretch.”
Roethlisberger threw for 229 yards and a touchdown and rookie running back Najee Harris added 83 yards rushing and caught his second scoring toss of the season. Eric Ebron scored the third rushing touchdown of his career as the Steelers found creative ways to move the ball with star wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster lost for the season with a shoulder injury.
“We've got a lot of players that can make plays,” said Pittsburgh wide receiver Diontae Johnson, who caught nine passes for 71 yards. “They showed that.”
Smith, starting in place of injured Russell Wilson, completed 23 of 32 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown in his first start in nearly four years. Alex Collins ran for 101 yards while filling in for injured starter Chris Carson, the first 100-yard rushing game by a Seahawk since Dec. 15, 2018.
Smith's late miscue, however, dropped Seattle to 2-4.