For a rookie, it’s more about watching than it is teaching. But T.J. Watt isn’t a rookie anymore. And that means he’s going to have a much more active voice and presence in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room.
Steelers.com has a good article posted earlier day, catching up with Watt in his first offseason as a professional. There are plenty of goals he’s set out to achieve, like any other second-year player, but becoming more vocal is near the top of the list.
“I’m not learning now,” Watt told Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley. “I’m not going to be sitting in the hotel room with Keion (Adams) trying to figure out plays and stuff. I know all the plays, and I have relationships with the players now. I can be a little more vocal.”
Keion Adams, also going into his second season, had his rookie year cut short by a shoulder injury suffered in camp. He won’t be counted on for an immediate role the way Watt is but him having a strong camp would give the team more confidence in its depth.
Back to Watt. With James Harrison gone, though his leadership wound up being questioned by several players, and Arthur Moats looking unlikely to return, it’s a young group overall. The elder players are Bud Dupree and Anthony Chickillo, both only 25 years young and entering their fourth NFL season. There is no “vet” in the room like there was in the past. Anyone new added to the mix, like a draft pick, will be looking up to all those guys, including Watt, so taking charge is critical for someone in his situation.
For Watt, being more vocal and becoming a leader is a byproduct of feeling comfortable in the system.
“I feel like I’m going to be able to take more risks being able to contribute more now that I have more leeway. I feel more comfortable in the system.”
2017 was an objectively successful rookie season for Watt who didn’t put up eye-popping numbers but was available, consistent, and the most versatile OLB on the team. With Dupree’s future still up in the air, it’s a big year for him too, Watt needs to become “the guy.” Someone who can be counted on to eclipse the double-digit sack number, a figure that hasn’t been reached by a Pittsburgh outside linebacker since Harrison and LaMarr Woodley in 2010. A depressing statistic that needs to change. And fast.