TJ Watt relishing Justin Fields battle as Pittsburgh Steelers host Chicago Bears in MNF | NFL News

Cameron Hogwood

Interviews, Comment & Analysis @ch_skysports

The Week Nine action in the NFL concludes on Monday night when the Chicago Bears (3-5) take on the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.15am in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Last Updated: 08/11/21 5:25pm

Can TJ Watt add to his sack tally on Monday night?

Can TJ Watt add to his sack tally on Monday night?

TJ Watt lives permanently on the radar of opposition quarterbacks and awaits as one of the toughest tests to date in the young career of Justin Fields as the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Chicago Bears on Monday night.

The Steelers edge rusher has 8.5 sacks, 15 quarterback hits, three forced fumbles, three pass defenses, two fumble recoveries and eight tackles for loss in just six games so far this season as one of the leading Defensive Player of the Year candidates. If he had not already justified becoming the highest-paid defender in NFL history prior to the season, he is well on his way to doing so.

Only Aaron Donald (63.5) has more sacks than Watt (58) since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2017, his impact off the edge having been required to an even greater extent this season following the offseason departure of Bud Dupree and recent exit of Melvin Ingram III.

“He’s a game-changer,” said Bears head coach Matt Nagy. “He’s special. He’s all over the place. He’s smart. He can beat you with different moves, speed to power, can bull rush you. He’ll be all over the place, different spots on the D-line.

“And he goes after the football. When he tackles, he tackles the football. When you’re in the pocket, you better have ball security because he’s going after that football.”

T.J. Watt's strip-sack puts the Steelers in game-winning field goal range against the Seahawks in Week Six

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T.J. Watt’s strip-sack puts the Steelers in game-winning field goal range against the Seahawks in Week Six

T.J. Watt’s strip-sack puts the Steelers in game-winning field goal range against the Seahawks in Week Six

Fields delivered arguably the most accomplished performance of his rookie campaign so far last weekend as he finished 19 of 27 for 175 yards, one touchdown and one interception alongside 103 rushing yards from 10 carries that included a stunning effort to escape a near-certain sack before scurrying to the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown.

It was the first substantial glimpse of the former Ohio State quarterback’s threat outside the pocket since arriving in the NFL. Watt and the Steelers were paying attention.

“I think it’s another great challenge and that’s the beautiful thing about the NFL, is there are just so many great players and a guy like this is a top pick in the NFL Draft, a guy who is so mobile and can throw the ball is always a unique challenge for us and just looking forward to getting after him,” added Watt.

“They have a great running attack to help a bit and any time a quarterback is able to move around the pocket and create escape lanes it creates a certain type of challenge for the rush men, myself included.”

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields can add this 22-yard touchdown run to his highlight reel.

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Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields can add this 22-yard touchdown run to his highlight reel.

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields can add this 22-yard touchdown run to his highlight reel.

Monday will mark Pittsburgh’s first game since sending Ingram to the Kansas City Chiefs prior to last Tuesday’s trade deadline, putting the onus on Watt’s fellow starter Alex Highsmith to ramp up his production and rookie Derrek Tuszka, the only other outside linebacker on the active roster, to provide rotational depth.

Up front Cam Heyward has been one of the league’s standout and yet unsung disruptors, while departures and absences, including the injured Stephon Tuitt, means there is greater expectation surrounding Taco Charlton than had perhaps been anticipated.

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A key area of focus for Mike Tomlin’s defense, though, has been creating more turnovers, with the Steelers’ six takeaways more than just three other teams, all of which have five apiece.

“It’s something we’ve continued to work on, we do a takeaway circuit here every Friday and we’re just trying to find ways to create that splash that we always talk about that we’ve been able to get for the past four or five years that I’ve been here,” said Watt.

“We know they come in bunches and in waves and you can’t press too hard because we’ll have problems like we did earlier in the season when myself in particular was trying to do too much. We just have to play assignment-sound football and those things will come.”

Watch highlights of the Steelers' overtime win against the Seahawks in Week Six

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Watch highlights of the Steelers’ overtime win against the Seahawks in Week Six

Watch highlights of the Steelers’ overtime win against the Seahawks in Week Six

The Steelers will be missing tight end Eric Ebron due to an ankle injury, while the Bears are without star pass rusher Khalil Mack (foot) and running back Damien Williams (knee).

Chicago are expected to activate running back David Montgomery off injured reserve ahead of Monday night’s game, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Montgomery has been nursing a knee problem suffered in Week Four but appears set to return to the backfield alongside rookie Khalil Herbert, who has rushed for 344 yards in his absence since the Week Five win over the Raiders.

The Week Nine action in the NFL concludes on Monday night when the Chicago Bears (3-5) take on the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.15am in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

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