On Friday, the Steelers defeated the New York Giants by a score of 20-12 in their first preseason game. All eyes were on the rookies that the Steelers drafted in April as well as other players trying to make their mark for a roster spot.
One rookie in particular stood out from all of the rest. That rookie is none other than the Steelers’ 2017 first-round pick, T.J. Watt. Watt’s night was highlighted by 2 sacks on quarterback Josh Johnson.
A certain somebody saw what his younger brother was doing…
These sacks may have been easier to achieve due to the quality of players in the first preseason game but it’s an encouraging sign nonetheless.
The Steelers have had their fair share of difficulty trying to develop pass rushers over the last few years. However, Watt’s NFL debut may be a glimmer of hope that the Steelers’ pass-rushing unit is turning a corner.
A Bouncing Badger
The Pewaukee, Wisconsin native did not have a hard time picking the right college. He played at the University of Wisconsin, the same school his brothers, J.J. and Derek attended. Though he did not start in his first two years at Wisconsin, the one-time tight end eventually converted to linebacker and never looked back.
Watt accumulated 71 tackles, and interception return for a touchdown, and in his junior year, tallied all of his 11.5 career sacks.
Seen as a raw talent for his limited play time and small stat line, Watt left Wisconsin after his junior year and entered the 2017 NFL Draft.
On April 27, 2017, as the first-round was closing down, the Pittsburgh Steelers were on the clock. Fans were hoping for more help in the secondary and waited for a cornerback’s name to be called.
Instead, the Steelers drafted a linebacker for the fourth time in the last five years. Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones never lived up to his first-round status, Ryan Shazier has been dominant, when he is on the field, Bud Dupree has shown signs of promise, and now T.J. Watt has been added to the mix.
— TJ Watt (@_TJWatt) April 28, 2017
Until Friday night, Steeler Nation may have been hesitant to warm up to the youngest Watt, but he is off to a quick start of reinforcing the linebacking corps.
Watt will certainly be getting more time on the field as the preseason progresses, but if his debut showed anything, it’s that he is eager to earn a starting role.
While he may have to rotate with James Harrison and Bud Dupree for the foreseeable future, the time will come where Watt will be an anchor at the outside linebacker position.
Soak it in, Pittsburgh. We could very well be witnessing a defensive rebirth of right in front of us. This defense, once viewed as “Swiss cheese” for quarterbacks, is slowly but surely becoming a force to be reckoned with.