The Pittsburgh Steelers knew that they may be fortunate in choosing to draft Wisconsin outside linebacker T.J. Watt in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft because he had a secret weapon that would help him be able to hit the ground running that few rookies actually have: NFL lineage.
Watt is, of course, the young brother of three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, but he also has another brother, Derek Watt, in the NFL, and his two older siblings took him under their wing this summer during the down time between OTAs and training camp to give him one final crash course on NFL life.
He has, of course, been fed information for years from J.J. and Derek about what to expect at the NFL level, and how to be an NFL player, but now that he has already gotten a taste of it himself, going through OTAs and minicamp, he has had a stronger foundation upon which his brothers could build him. And build them they did.
The rookie told reporters yesterday that his family really helped him get ready for training camp. “Working with my brothers in the offseason has helped a lot”, he said. “I feel like I have grown quite a bit over the summer”, which should be music to Steelers fans’ ears.
Watt said that his brothers “pushed me” through the summer. “Taught me any little lessons that you need to be in the NFL. Telling me little details how to practice, how to be a pro, and then just pushed me in the weight room and on the field”, he said.
Of course, he had his own weight to pull, and he fulfilled his spring declaration that he would keep his nose in his playbook so that he could get off to a running start at training camp. And he has, working extensively with the first-team defense with James Harrison sitting, even flipping over to the left side on occasion.
He said that when he wasn’t training with his brothers, he spent the summer “staying in the playbook and developing myself as a player, knowing the drills that we are going to be doing day-in and day-out and doing those at home”.
But he is also ready to be back with his new brothers in his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates, among them fellow rookie draftee Keion Adams, who was taken in the seventh round of the draft. While Watt is running with the first-team defense, Adams is picking up the crumbs with the third-team defense for now.
“I have high expectations for myself”, Watt added. “At the same time I can’t put too much weight on my shoulders. I am just going to go out there and do what I do best and play football”. Still, at the rate that he is advancing, it is hard to imagine him not having a pretty big role on the defense this year.