With the Pittsburgh Steelers having completed the first portion of their season, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this year and give out some midseason player evaluations.
The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first six games with a winning record despite being 1-2-1 just two weeks ago. Coming off of consecutive strong victories with improve play from both sides of the ball, things are looking up.
The offense has done its part for the most part, but has taken some long vacations. Their disappearing acts in the second half was perplexing, but that has improved. Defensively, the secondary is seemingly becoming a bit more stable after being nothing short of terrible previously, but there are absolutely some real concerns remaining.
Player: T.J. Watt, OLB
The Steelers have been getting quite a lot of contributions this year from their 2017 NFL Draft class. Their second-round wide receiver and third-round running back are their two yardage leaders on offense, both in the top five at their positions in the league right now. And their first-round pick, outside linebacker T.J. Watt, is among the league leaders in sacks, as well.
Watt recorded three sacks in the season opener against the Cleveland Browns, a team against whom he has recorded six of his 13 career sacks over the course of the past 21 games, but then he went quiet in that department for weeks before adding a second three-sack game in Week Five against the Atlanta Falcons.
That included a strip sack that resulted in a fumble that was recovered in the end zone by L.J. Fort for a touchdown, one of two defensive touchdowns for the Steelers on the season, the other being an interception by Bud Dupree.
That is relevant because it would normally be Watt making an impact in coverage, yet he only just recorded his first pass defensed of the season last week against the Cincinnati Bengals.
While he has not been dropping into coverage as frequently as he did last season, which was really an excessive amount, it is somewhat surprising that Watt has not as of yet had a bigger impact in this area so far this year, as he appeared to be developing into a player that could really impact the game in that role.
Be that as it may, Watt has already advanced into being a very well-rounded player. While he still has his rough spots in his game that he continues to work on, he has the potential to be the most complete player on the defense. He has all of the skills, the physical ability, and the determination to produce in that fashion.