Pittsburgh Steelers rookie linebacker T.J. Watt took down Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco on the last play of the game on Sunday Night Football. The Steelers were winning 39-38, and Watt’s strip sack sealed the game.
It was a critical win for their playoff position and division standings. It was a tough game against a fierce rival. It was also the first game they played without linebacker Ryan Shazier, who is done for the year after suffering a serious spinal injury against the Cincinnati Bengals last Monday night. Shazier had to have spinal surgery and he Facetimed with his teammates after the win, but his absence in the locker room was still felt.
“This is all a product of Shay,” Watt said, per Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s what makes this defense go. We had to do it without him. It was tough, but I was proud of the way we brought it together and never gave up.”
Never giving up is true. However, they also surrendered 38 points and Ravens running back Alex Collins ran for 120 yards and a touchdown. It was clear that they missed Shazier’s presence on the field, as well.
The only sack of the game was Watt’s, perhaps showing how the defense was learning how to play without Shazier and adapting all night — and finally getting it right when it mattered most.
“I was just trying to use all the energy I had left in the tank,” Watt said. “It was a long game. We had a lot of rush opportunities throughout the game. I felt like I was getting close. Toward the end, I just wanted to give it everything I had and make a play for the defense.
“I just wanted get to the ball. I was saying, ‘Don’t throw it away, don’t throw it away.’ Sometimes we’re so close as rush men that they just throw it away at the end. Knowing that they had to make a big play, I thought he’d be hanging onto it. I just went for the ball when I got to him.”