I don’t know about you, but I really can’t get enough praise of Pittsburgh Steelers rookie outside linebacker T.J. Watt. Ever since he was drafted in the first round, very nearly everything that we have been told—and now seen—from him and his progress has been in the realm of positive developments.
He is very athletic. He is in very good shape. He knows how to take care of his body like a veteran. He knows how to study an NFL defense and apply it onto the field. And he is doing all of this after just a couple of seasons of work on the defensive side of the ball.
Frankly, we are hearing the details of Watt’s progress that I’m sure we were all longing to hear about Jarvis Jones since 2013, and about Bud Dupree since 2015. The stark reality is that the outside linebackers that the Steelers have drafted in the first round recently have not lived up to expectations, so it’s important that Watt bucks the trend.
It almost seems as though we have written countless articles going back to the spring about how teammates and coaches have been impressed with the rookie’s performance and poise and conditioning. So today we have another one for you from Head Coach Mike Tomlin.
Asked about what he has seen from his rookie first-round draft pick up to this point during training camp, the veteran head coach noted that “there’s some positive and negative, which is natural given where he is in the process, but boy, he appears to be a one-rep learner”.
Tomlin has a knack for memorable phrases, and ‘one-rep learner’ is another one for my book. Frankly, not a lot of players are one-rep learners, meaning that they are able to pick up on something very quickly once they get a chance to do it.
“He’s a quick study”, Tomlin went on, listening the qualities that Watt has displayed. “He’s got a great deal of urgency. He’s highly conditioned—I think that helps in the development process that allows him to absorb a large number of snaps, and that’s helping him and helping us”.
That’s not to say that the younger brother of J.J. Watt has been having a flawless training camp or that he is going to start, let alone make the Pro Bowl, during his rookie season. I’m sure that he would be the first to tell you just how far he has to go before he can consider himself a complete football player.
But what he has shown to date has been very encouraging, and for now. That is enough. We should get an opportunity to get a lengthy look at him on Friday during the Steelers’ first preseason game to see how he handles an unfamiliar tackle.