Steelers DC: Opponents using 'Hack-a-Shaq' strategy against Watt
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin believes offenses are going to great lengths to hold star pass-rusher T.J. Watt and attempt to minimize his impact on games.
"I think T.J. runs into what all the elite rushers do," Austin said Tuesday, according to ESPN's Brooke Pryor. "These guys are going to hold you until they can't because a lot of times that's the only way they can block."
Austin sees Pittsburgh's opponents employing a tactic similar to the one used on NBA Hall of Fame center Shaquille O'Neal. Yet, the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year doesn't get the benefit of heading to the charity stripe in his line of work.
"It's almost like the 'Hack-a-Shaq,'" Austin said, adding, "People would hack Shaq all the time, and he got fouled so much, and everybody knew it was a foul, but after a while, they didn't call it because he was so doggone good."
Watt also expressed frustration following the Steelers' Week 13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals regarding the perceived lack of calls he's receiving from officials.
"The NFL has something going against me," Watt said Sunday. "So I don't wanna talk any more negatively towards them. I don't know what I did, but I'll leave it at that."
Watt missed several snaps during the Week 13 contest after appearing to be held by Cardinals offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. He finished the game with six tackles, one tackle for loss, and 0.5 sacks.
Austin doesn't believe complaining will solve the problem and maintains the five-time Pro Bowler will just need to push forward.
"We're just going to play and fight through it, and T.J. will fight through it, and he'll do it because a good pro and he's a great player," Austin said.
Despite offenses going above and beyond to limit Watt's impact, his 14 sacks currently sit second to Khalil Mack's 15 for the league lead. He's also recorded 47 tackles, 13 TFLs, seven passes defended, and three forced fumbles through 12 games.