Terrell Watson will never be Christian Okoye but he’s still gunning for an NFL home. And he’s making a positive impression on his head coach.
Watson, hailing from Okoye’s alma mater, caught Mike Tomlin’s eye in Sunday’s practice at Heinz Field. He scored on all three carries of goal line work, one of the highlights of camp, after the first team offense was stuffed on four attempts. On his first carry, he ran over left guard and into the end zone. The second was the benefit of good blocking by the line and David Johnson, securing the edge and scoring off the left side. His third score was the most impressive. Robert Golden got under his pads diving across the goal line but Watson spun off and into the end zone.
“I like his downhill demeanor,”Tomlin told reporters Tuesday when asked about Watson. “On a limited exposure so far, he has shown a play demeanor that’s attractive and he’ll got more opportunities because of it.”
By Tuesday, Watson was the clear #3 running back of those who were healthy, running ahead of Brandon Brown-Dukes and Trey Williams. Neither have the size or power of Watson, giving him a unique leg up in the race.
He also has NFL experience, giving him another leg up. Though the sample size is small, he has nine career carries, all with the Philadelphia Eagles last year. That included his first touchdown, a one yard plunge against the Dallas Cowboys.
While Watson lacks top end explosion or speed, he’s been a well-rounded player who can catch out of the backfield and uses his size to anchor in pass protection.
Over the last several seasons, the Steelers have preferred to keep big, bruising backs on their practice squad. 230 pound Cameron Stingily was kept last year. In 2015, the team initially added the 237 pound Dominique Brown, though he was quickly discarded for Fitzgerald Toussaint, a stocky back who runs with power. Josh Harris was kept in 2014, one of the most jacked dudes on the whole team, and in other years, John Clay and Alvester Alexander have stuck around. Neither of them were small scatbacks.
As it stands today, and a lot could of course change over the course of the preseason, Watson has the inside track for a practice squad gig. The league isn’t new to him, there’s nothing to adjust to, and he’s playing with good pad level to maximize his power.
Maybe he is the next Toussaint. Cup of coffee elsewhere, some time on the taxi squad, and a possible NFL call-up if he’s needed.