Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: T.J. Watt
Stock Value: Up
Evaluation Type: Major, Long-Term
Reason: Second-Year Growth, Comfort Level
A lot is riding on T.J. Watt, both this season and for—well, perhaps the next decade. The Steelers drafted the youngest Watt brother to become one of the feature pieces of their defense for years to come, an edge defender who can get after the passer, hold up against the run, and be a dynamic player in coverage.
He got off to a promising start during his rookie season, posting the second-most sacks by a rookie in team history with seven. He also recorded an interception, added seven passes defensed, and forced a fumble, which proved to be the decisive moment in a tight victory against the Baltimore Ravens.
The good news is that he doesn’t appear to have any intention of stopping there or resting on his laurels. He recently spoke to reporters during spring drills and essentially said that he feels as though he is on another level this offseason.
“I’m so comfortable with the defense, I’m so comfortable with the terminology, with the guys that I’m playing with, so now I’m just flying around having fun and making plays, and it’s night and day from last year this time”, he said.
He already showed himself to be a legitimate starter-quality player as a rookie, which is something that the Steelers’ two previous first-round picks at the outside linebacker position have failed to do up to this point in their entire careers. Which is precisely why his panning out and living up to his potential has been so critical.
We haven’t had the opportunity to hear a lot directly about how Watt looked, but Ramon Foster did say that he had his way with rookie Chukwuma Okorafor. I think it goes without saying that he will be one of the most anticipated players to watch once training camp rolls around.
In the meantime, his only plan is to head back up to Wisconsin and train on his own. He said that his brothers will likely make an appearance, but this is something he is doing of his own accord.