It’s usually not a good thing to be described as narrow-minded unless you are angling toward a goal on the horizon. And that is the sort of narrow-minded focus with which Pittsburgh Steelers second-year outside linebacker T.J. Watt is pursuing his goal to become one of the best linebackers in the NFL and live up to his family name.
Not that he hasn’t already gotten off to a good start. During his rookie season, the 2017 first-round draft pick recorded 54 tackles with seven sacks, an interception, a forced fumble, and seven passes defensed. He even blocked a field goal, just to add to his resume.
All of that means nothing to him now, telling Jeremy Fowler, “no stats matter. It’s all zero”. Though he led all rookies in 2017 with seven sacks, he doesn’t have any right now. Neither does anybody else. “It’s a new season. It’s a clean slate. I’ve got everything to prove”.
That is not only his top priority, it is seemingly his only priority, if you hear him describe his interests and his offseason. He spent the past month trainer with his family’s trainer, who also works with his older brothers who are also in the NFL. His only other task aside from training is chopping firewood.
“I’ve got a boring lifestyle. I’m not about any of that [other] stuff”, he said of the typical off-field life of a young professional athlete. “I work out, I go home, I grill burgers and hang out by myself or hang out with a few of the guys on the team. I’m not here for anything else but football”.
Watt surprised in becoming an every-down starter immediately during his rookie season. This year, his task is to flip to the other side of the field and play from the left side, or so that has appeared to be the plan through the spring.
Wherever he lines up, the Steelers will be asking him to be a complete player capable of carrying out every assignment, whether it is rushing the passer, setting the edge against the run, or playing in coverage, even if it calls for following a slot receiver down the field.
Not only is he one of the most dedicated and diligent workers on the roster, he is also one of the best athletes, and that athleticism allows not only him to carry out a variety of assignments, but for the Steelers to ask him to do them.
Much of the Steelers’ hope for the future rests on Watt living up to the highest aspirations had for him when he was first drafted. They need him to be the next difference-maker and producer of splash plays of the defensive side of the ball, especially following the loss of Ryan Shazier.