The calendar has now flipped over to July and that means the Pittsburgh Steelers annual training camp will be getting underway in Latrobe later this month. As usual, we have several series planned to get you ready for this year’s training camp and mine will center around preview profiles of 50 players over the course of the next 25 days. Most of these profiles will be on players who were under contract with the team in 2016.
41st in this series are the rookie draft picks, beginning with T.J. Watt.
Intro: Watt, of course, was the team’s first round pick this season. Looking back, the pick made sense. He came from a big school, tested well, is regarded as high IQ/high character, and the Steelers were swarming with interest leading up to the draft. As a one-year starter at Wisconsin, he recorded 15.5 TFL and 11.5 sacks as a 3-4 OLB.
Current Strengths: Watt can lean on his football family background which will give him a leg up heading into his rookie season from a football IQ and conditoning standpoint. High effort player. Experience with his hand up, dropping into coverage, and familiar with blitz/stunts. Much better hand use and ability to shed as a pass rusher than others who have his limited experience. Plus athlete overall, fluid in change of direction ability. Humble, hard-worker. Physical and capable of rerouting in coverage.
Current Weaknesses: Will have predictable rookie woes. Has to bounce back when he loses, something that will happen much more often in the NFL than college. Must show better technique versus the run. Will wrong arm when he isn’t supposed to, needs to work off blocks in run game a tick sooner. Has to speed up game overall to match NFL’s pace. Little experience playing to the field and in more space.
2017 Outlook: Watt is expected to serve in a near 50/50 split at ROLB with James Harrison. He’ll have to give the Steelers an additional boost at OLB and improve their four man pass rush, a critical element Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler have been circling for several years. That won’t require a ten sack rookie campaign but a five sack season would be refreshing. And needed.
2017 Base Salary: $465,000
2017 Salary Cap Charges: $1.68 million
2017 Health Status: No known ailments exiting offseason program
2016 Health Status: No known injuries
2016 Regular Season Snaps Played: N/A
2016 Stat That Matters: 15.5 total splash plays (sacks + turnovers) in 14 games