As the Green Bay Packers prepare to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, all eyes are on the colossal matchup between Steelers’ outside linebacker T.J. Watt and Packers’ offensive lineman Zach Tom. Watt, a defensive powerhouse, has been a dominant force, ranking second in the NFL with 9.5 sacks as of this week.
Watt’s track record is nothing short of impressive, leading the NFL in sacks in 2020 and setting a record for sacks in 2021. Despite missing seven games last season, Watt has consistently ranked among the league’s top players since 2020, boasting 52.5 sacks, 60 tackles for losses, 120 quarterback hits, and 10 forced fumbles.
The Packers, with their own standout pass rusher Rashan Gary, typically move their best pass rusher around the defense. However, the Steelers stick to a different strategy, with Watt primarily rushing from the defense’s left side, as indicated by Pro Football Focus. This sets the stage for a relentless showdown between Watt and Tom, play after play.
Tom, no stranger to facing elite pass rushers, has encountered formidable challenges in recent weeks, squaring off against the likes of Danielle Hunter, Maxx Crosby, Aidan Hutchinson, and Cam Jordan. Despite playing with a brace to protect an injured knee, Tom has risen to the occasion, impressing offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich with his preparation, attitude, and professionalism.
Stenavich praised Tom’s resilience, stating, “He’s had a really good string of challenges, and I think he’s done an awesome job.” Tom’s pass-blocking efficiency, measured by sacks, hits, and hurries allowed per pass-protecting snap, ranks 17th among offensive tackles who have played at least 50 percent of the snaps, according to PFF.
As Tom gears up for another formidable opponent in Watt, he remains focused on self-improvement. While acknowledging the importance of studying Watt’s pass-rush moves and steps, Tom emphasizes the need to stay grounded and simply play football when faced with the intensity of a live game.
Sunday’s matchup promises a clash of titans, with Watt seeking to disrupt the Packers’ offense, and Tom standing resilient as the stalwart defender for Green Bay. The showdown between these two forces is poised to be a defining moment in the Packers-Steelers matchup, showcasing the intensity and skill that define the NFL’s elite players.