It was obvious the Pittsburgh Steelers would select an edge-rusher early in the 2017 NFL Draft and they wound up getting one with an NFL bloodline as they drafted T.J. Watt out of Wisconsin with the 30th overall selection in the first-round.
After the pick of Watt was made, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert talked about the newest Steeler and what ultimately led to the team drafting him Thursday night.
“T.J. Watt is somebody we’ve had our eye on really since the early fall,” Colbert said during his post-selection press conference. “I made a visit up there [to Wisconsin]. We had two other scouts go in and he was one of those junior possibility guys that might come out early.”
Colbert went on to say that after the 2016 college football season ended that Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst texted him and asked him to look at Watt to see what his draft value might be before he decided whether or not to come out early.
“We did that and I looked at him and said, ‘Coach, this kid’s a first-round pick,’” Colbert said.
Colbert said the Steelers visited with Watt at the scouting combine and that he and head coach Mike Tomlin spent a night with Watt when they went to his pro day.
“We’re excited to get him,” Colbert said. “This kid’s a solid football player that is really only scratching the surface as a defensive player.”
While Watt has had to overcome a few knee injuries already, Colbert indicated the team is comfortable with where he’s at physically right now and that they have no concerns.
Watt registered 11.5 sacks during his one year as a starter after converting from tight end.
“It was really a remarkable one-year production,” Colbert said. “So, we don’t even think he’s a complete product at this point. But were excited about where he can go.”
Tomlin also added his thoughts on Watt’s upside.
“We saw some things that were exciting to us,” Tomlin said. “His hand usage in particular, for a guy with his short resume at the position, was exciting. His production speaks for itself. He’s just a quality guy and a quality pick for us. We’re excited about bringing him into the fold and getting started and contunining his development, not only as a football player, but as an outside linebacker.”
Tomlin was asked if he’s looking for Watt to replace veteran outside linebacker James Harrison in the future.
“Were not looking at anything of that nature,” Tomlin said. “He’ll be given an opportunity like the other guys. Obviously because where we took him in the draft, we believe all of those things are on the table for him.”