As a rookie in 2017, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt had a strong season with seven sacks and an interception, among other accolades. He helped the defense improve, leading the league in sacks and doing enough to get the team to a 13-3 regular season record.
Watt himself improved a lot on his second season, boosting his sack total up to 13 and forcing six fumbles. He was arguably the team’s defensive player and has the makings of a Pro Bowler in the near future for sure. But the team faltered late in games frequently and fell to 9-6-1 on the season, coming half a game from reaching the postseason.
There was only one word in Watt’s mind to describe that experience: humbling. That is what he talked about with Missi Matthews recently for the team’s website in a sit-down interview.
“I think it’s humbling. It’s the only word you can really use to describe this whole situation, is humbling”, he told Matthews. “Being in such a prestigious league at the highest level of football, to one year make the playoffs and the next year not [is humbling], and I think it comes down to a few plays here and there throughout the whole season”.
He reflected on his own approach to the game, likely hearkening on the wisdom he learned from his brothers. “You can never be too high, you can never be too low”, he said. “You just have to really respect the game of football and respect each and every opponent and learn from all of our mistakes, grow from everything we did good and move on”.
The Steelers got off to a bad start, blowing a lead in the opening game to ultimately settle for a tie against the Cleveland Browns. They would lose a shootout a week later and then again two weeks after that with an offensively inept second half against the Baltimore Ravens, going 1-2-1 before rattling off six straight wins. Watt recalled that tipping point and the struggles that followed.
“You never want to look too far forward, whether it’s for good or for bad, but we definitely had the momentum”, he said of the team’s mentality during their six-game winning streak.
“We felt like we were going to go on a run. We didn’t like the way we started the season, but we liked the way that we recovered and we were winning games consistently. Then things just kind of derailed for lack of a better term and we just couldn’t seem to get back on track”.
Admittedly, that had a lot to do with the defense giving up leads. They had leads in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Oakland Raiders, and the New Orleans Saints. They were tied in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos. They also allowed the Cincinnati Bengals to tie the game before the Steelers won on a game-winning drive.