It is usually true in my experience that it helps when you are your own harshest critic. There are certainly instances in which it can go overboard—especially if you start criticizing things over which you have no control—but I would think that it applies to the football field.
And I think it’s safe to say that Pittsburgh Steelers rookie starting outside linebacker T.J. Watt is his own harshest critic, a quality that we have heard from him since he was drafted back in the spring. And that’s also why he, and his teammates, and his coaches, believe that he belongs in their locker room.
“That’s why I feel I fit so well here, because I’m always trying to chase greatness“, he told Jeremy Fowler for ESPN, for example. “Yeah, we put together a few good performances, but we’re always trying to look for that next level”.
Statistically, I don’t think that there is any argument to be made that he hasn’t been productive. In seven games, he already has 28 tackles, with four sacks, an interception, and four passes defensed. He is playing an inordinately large role in coverage for a 3-4 outside linebacker as well.
He had a late pass defensed in the Steelers’ last game against the Lions in Detroit when he dropped into middle zone coverage. While it was a pretty close-range encounter, he got two hands on the ball and was visibly frustrated in himself for not picking it off.
“That’s the natural competitor in him and I love him for having that”, said his position coach and former Steelers outside linebacker, Joey Porter. “When you stop having that, then it’s not even fun for you as a player. He’s always going to have that competitive nature in him of always wanting more, and that’s what’s going to drive him to be great”.
Already, he is tied for the second-most sacks by a Steelers rookie in team history, although he still has his work cut out for him if he hopes to catch up to Kendrell Bell’s team record of nine. It’s certainly possible for him to get five sacks over the course of the final eight games, of course, and that will become expected of him in short order.
“He’s a better athlete than I expected when I got him, period”, Porter said of the high-pedigreed linebacker. “There’s stuff that he can do that”, he said, “surprised other people. It doesn’t surprise me because I’ve been around him for a few months to see some of the stuff he does in practice”.
His athleticism is evident and impressive, but I think his most impressive, and endearing, trait displayed to date has been his proverbial ‘motor’.
As a player, Watt still has a lot of room to get better in virtually every category. He needs to learn more he needs to improve his technique, he can stand to get stronger, etc. And all of that merely serves to highlight how well he is already doing.