We are now at a point during the offseason in which we find ourselves looking at training camp just around the corner for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the rest of the league, and a lot has changed for them over the course of the past several months. They have lost a number of players in free agency, through releases, and retirements. But they have also brought in a number of new faces to replace them.
We all know that roster turnover is an ever-present reality for today’s rosters, and it seems that over the course of the past half-decade or so even the Steelers have proven to be as susceptible to the annual shakeup as anybody. With that in mind, we should take the time to get to know some of the new faces with training camp soon to be here.
It would make sense to get this series started as we head into the home stretch ahead of training camp with the Steelers’ rookie draft class, and it would make even more sense to start with their first-round draft pick. Given that, we will be starting this year’s installment of the New Faces series by introducing you to outside linebacker T.J. Watt and what he may bring this year.
Of course, you are already going to know quite a bit about Watt at this point if you have been following along throughout the spring and summer. The younger brother of All-Pro J.J. Watt, he is a former tight end who converted to the defensive side of the ball in the middle of his college career at Wisconsin.
Even though he is fairly inexperienced at the position, and he has also had a bit of an injury history, the Steelers were seemingly very comfortable using their first-round pick on him and betting the future on him, because he will be counted upon to serve an apprenticeship under James Harrison, whom he will also have to replace.
Harrison is back under a two-year contract, but he will be 40 years old during the second year of that deal, and it’s not clear how many snaps he will see even this year. But the good news is that virtually everything that we have heard about Watt through this point of the offseason has been positive.
Outside linebackers coach Joey Porter said that he could count the number of mistakes that the rookie made during OTAs on one hand, which is quite a compliment. He described him as “acclimated” to the NFL level already.
No doubt his older brother was a great influence in that regard, as he already came in understanding what it would take to fuel his body through diet and training, and he also knew what he would have to expect as he navigates through his rookie season.
On the practice field, he has also impressed his coaches, showing off some of that athletic ability and offensive background at times in coverage and in getting off the line of scrimmage quicker than anybody.
As we head into training camp, however, Watt knows as well as anybody that he has not proven nor earned anything yet. He was talking about looking forward to getting the pads on to take things to the next level months ago already, so let’s not keep him waiting much longer.