T.J. Watt denied solo sack record after Steelers appeal fails

·2 min read

T.J. finished the season a half-sack short of holding the NFL's single-season sack record to himself.

He believes he got shorted by statisticians in Baltimore on Sunday. The Pittsburgh Steelers agreed and filed a formal appeal on his behalf.

But according to multiple reports, the Elias Sports Bureau agreed with gameday statisticians that a first-quarter forced fumble of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley was an aborted play and, therefore, not a sack. So instead of tallying 23.5 sacks on the season, Watt will have to settle for 22.5, which still ties him with Michael Strahan for the NFL's single-season record.

Was this a sack?

The play in question took place early in Sunday's Steelers win. A bad snap by Ravens center Bradley Bozeman hit the turf instead of Huntley, who had lined up in shotgun. Huntley dove on the ball then got up before Watt hit him and forced a fumble.

Huntley was still eligible to throw the ball, so it appeared to be a sack. That's certainly what Watt believed.

“It was empty [backfield] and there was a bad snap," Watt told SI's Albert Breer. " [Tyler Huntley] fell on it, but then he got up. And when he got back up on his two feet, I tackled him and got the ball out.

"So, I mean, he very well could have still thrown the ball. My understanding was that it was a sack, but apparently it wasn’t, at least according to the statisticians.”

But since it was ruled an aborted play, there was no sack to be had. The decision begs the question: how could it be an aborted play if Huntley was still eligible to throw the ball? Had he somehow managed to escape Watt, there's no rule prohibiting Huntley from throwing a forward pass at that point. Huntley clearly hadn't taken a knee or given or given up on the play. It wasn't a clearly designed run.

But Elias has the final say, and Watt will have to settle for trying to break the record next season.

T.J. Watt (90) forces a fumble by Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley (2) during the first quarter Pittsburgh Steelers versus Baltimore Ravens National Football League game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 9, 2022 in Baltimore, MD. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
How, exactly, was this not a sack? (Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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