T.J. Watt has made the coaching staff pretty happy this season. Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert for drafting him, Keith Butler for the production on defense, and last Thursday, Danny Smith for making a fantastic special teams play.
It was Watt’s swat that kept the Steelers ahead in an eventual rout of the Tennessee Titans. Watt blocked Ryan Succop’s 48 yard attempt early in the second quarter, becoming the first Steelers’ linebacker to block one since James Farrior in 2002.
Definitely a crucial play at the time. So when Smith sat down with Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola in the weekly Coordinator’s Corner, he couldn’t help but praise what Watt did.
“T.J. Watt got it,” Smith said. “We had good penetration. He’s a hell of a player and it was a hell of an individual feat on his part. It was a great play.”
But blocked field goals just don’t happen. Field goals are a science, for both sides of the ball and there’s a lot of coaching and timing that goes into creating a successful play for either side.
“We got guys who are pretty good at [hand placement]. There’s a time to get your hand in the air to get it. Some guys are late with that sometimes. They get penetration but don’t get balls. Some guys start running right off the snap with their hand up which means they aren’t running so fast with their explosion. So it’s a knack to do those things and we have a few guys who are pretty good at it.”
The Steelers have certainly had their fair share of blocks over the years. Since 2015, they have rejected four of them. Cam Heyward did it twice in 2015, Daniel McCullers once last year and then Watt’s a week ago.
And again, getting a block takes a lot of work and film study.
“You’re studying the protection. Your’e studying hand placement, you’re studying foot placement, you’re studying how quick they get their feet down. You’re studying how quickly they get their feet down. You’re studying matchups, size as far as height as weight. You’re studying the operation, the holder and the kicker, what’s the timing of your process. There’s a whole lot involved to set up an opportunity to get one of those.”
Despite being a hotshot first rounder, Watt has played over a quarter of the Steelers’ special team snaps this season. That includes starting on the punt coverage unit, meaning he’s gotta sprint 40 yards downfield each time and then play outside linebacker. But his conditioning and attention to detail have given him the ability to do both at a high level. Thursday, he added a blocked kick just for good measure.