Across 20 seasons, Michael Strahan's single-season sack standard has stood upon shaky ground.
On Sunday, Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt capped a stellar 2021 campaign by tying Strahan's sack record to join him as the NFL's single-season sack king.
Watt tracked down Baltimore Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley near the end of the first half for his first sack of the game and a record-tying 22.5 on the season to join the history books. The Steelers, clinging to their playoff lives, rallied to win 16-13 in overtime.
While Watt tied the record against the Ravens, it was a sensational four-sack performance on Monday night against the Cleveland Browns that thrust the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate into the record-breaking realm. Against Cleveland, perhaps fittingly, one of Watt's sacks came on a Baker Mayfield slide.
For over two decades, many have passionately argued about the legitimacy of Strahan's crown as single-season sack kick. The New York Giants legend and Hall of Famer famously -- or infamously, depending on your vantage point -- established a new sack record in a 2001 Week 17 game against the Green Bay Packers, when quarterback Brett Favre rolled into Strahan's pass-rushing path and slid down at his feet.
Strahan passed the New York Jets' Mark Gastineau's mark of 22 sacks set in 1984.
Now, perhaps, Watt will fend off qualms about him tying a new record in his team's 17th game of the season. Perhaps fittingly it will be an asterisk versus asterisk argument. However, Watt established his total tally in only 15 games as he's missed two during this season and Strahan played in all 16 in 2001.
Sacks were first recorded in 1982 as official NFL statistics, so Watt has tied the official record.
However, Detroit Lions standout Al Baker was seen as the unofficial record holder after Pro Football Reference, in 2021, counted up sacks from seasons prior to 1982 and found Baker had tallied 23 in 1978.