When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted outside linebacker T.J. Watt in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, they knew that they were going to bringing in a player who was inexperienced, but one who would never the less be on an accelerated learning curve.
For one thing, he has some pretty notable family currently in the NFL who have been and continue to be there to show him how to train and prepare for life in the NFL. And there is another pretty notable factor as well: there have been plenty of reps to go around for him to get as much experience as he needs.
That is because their projected 2017 starter on the right side of the defense, James Harrison, is being held back during training camp, which has become par for the course at this point in his career. At age 39, he still works up quite a sweat in his trademark sweat suit out on the field, but he does so on his own.
So the rookie has been given plenty of opportunities to impress his teammates, and they have noticed. Bud Dupree, another outside linebacker that they drafted in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, told Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he “catches on fast” and “caught on faster” than he did during his rookie season.
Watt had been looking forward to getting the pads back on literally all short, short one day. “I was really eager because it’s been four of five months since Jan. 2 and I wanted to finally get out there and show people what I can do”, he said.
“Talk is talk, and going thru shorts and t-shirt practice is good for learning the system, but once you get the system under your belt you truly want to get out there and play football again and make plays”, Watt added about what the first padded practice means for him.
“I love the game of football; that’s why I play. To go out there and not be jacked up to be in pads and do what I love to do in front of the best fans in the NFL would be a cop-out if I didn’t give it everything I had”.
Watt wanted to “show all that amped-up intensity I’ve been keeping inside for the past four or five months and let it loose”, which he said was “an absolute blast”, and to do it while lining up with the first-team defense was even better.
“That’s really good for me, that’s everything I want”, he said of all the playing time he has been afforded already as a rookie. “The more reps I get, the better it is because I’m still adjusting to the NFL, the speed, the size. Anytime I get more reps, I’m happy”.