TJ Watt Fined $20,054 for Hitting Matt Ryan’s Leg; Brother JJ Questions Decision

Pittsburgh Steelers pass-rusher T.J. Watt has been fined $20,054 by the NFL for “forcibly hitting in the knee area or below” while attempting to sack Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Watt’s older brother, Houston Texans superstar J.J. Watt, was incredulous upon hearing of the news:

J.J. Watt also tweeted “That is insanity” in response to Schefter’s report about his brother’s fine.

During just about every NFL game at this point is a controversial roughing the passer call, with the NFL’s new emphasis on protecting quarterbacks and banning defensive players from driving quarterbacks into the ground on sack attempts or landing on them with their full weight.

“I think they just sometimes lack common sense,” Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said of the rules earlier in the week, per Mark Maske of the Washington Post. “I get it. We want to protect quarterbacks, and I completely understand that. They’re the lifeblood to our game. But it’s really hard to do your job, and it’s having an effect on some games.”

“A lot of guys are coming in… to try to hit the quarterback, and we’re second-guessing ourselves,” Eagles defensive end Chris Long added. “We don’t know where to hit him or if we should hit him in certain situations. So it’s going to be tough. I guess we’ve got to adapt.”

In T.J. Watt’s case, hitting a quarterback around the knees has been illegal for some time now. But J.J. Watt’s surprise at the fine—and T.J. Watt’s surprise at even being penalized—came from the fact that he appeared to make an effort to pull away from the contact and didn’t bring Ryan to the ground.

“I understand the rules. I’m not a dirty player,” Watt said after the game, per ESPN.com. “I tried to pull off him at the end. Whether the ref saw it or not, I understand why they call it. It was a low hit. But I tried to pull my arms off. … It puts us in a bind because I don’t know what else I can do.”

Watt has been proficient at getting after quarterbacks this season and is tied for the NFL lead in sacks with six, to go along with 28 tackles and a forced fumble. His attempt on Ryan was an expensive one, however.

T.J. Watt on Matt Ryan: ‘I can’t blame him for playing the game’

If Matt Ryan was embellishing, T.J. Watt doesn’t blame him.

The Steelers outside linebacker got flagged for a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty midway through the second quarter of Pittsburgh’s 41-17 win against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday after briefly touching Ryan’s leg. Atlanta would go on to cut the Steelers’ lead to 13-10 on the drive and Watt would earn AFC defensive player of the week honors for his three-sack performance.

Though Watt said he does not know what is and isn’t a penalty anymore in the league in which he plays, Ryan falling to the ground and gesturing toward him made sense to the pass rusher.

“If I was him, I would. Why not? Fifteen yards helps your team a lot. If I’m a quarterback I’m gonna sell it too,” Watt said. “So I can’t blame him for playing the game.”

Mike Tomlin criticized NFL officiating after the game, said on Tuesday he didn’t expect to be fined and on Wednesday was fined, according to USA Today.

Watt did not know Tomlin was fined until a reporter told him as much on Wednesday after practice, but he did note the head coach was simply filling his particular role.
James Harrison coaches up T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers OLBs

“Ah, he’s doing his job,” Tomlin said. “And it’s not my job to complain about the refs because my opinion means absolutely nothing and I go out and control what I can control.”