The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to forge the makings of a dynasty during the 2000s primarily because they consistently hit home runs in the first round of the draft. They have had too many singles, doubles, and even groundouts, however, in recent years, so to find T.J. Watt in 2017 has been a big deal.
The second-year outside linebacker became the first Steelers player in a decade to record at least 13 sacks in a season during the 2018 campaign. He also registered six forced fumbles, which was, again, the most by any Steelers player in about a decade.
Those numbers and others helped him earn himself a Pro Bowl honorific. Though it came backhandedly as an alternate when Houston Texans edge defender Jadeveon Clowney backed out due to injury, he isn’t letting that sour his experience.
Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward was thrilled to finally have a defensive teammate with him in the Pro Bowl, and told the media down there that he thinks T.J. could be as good as his older brother, three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, if he keeps improving at the rate he has shown in his first two years.
T.J. gave a very mature response when he was asked about Heyward’s remark. “I have the ultimate confidence in myself”, he said. “I really don’t care what other people think about me as a player or what ceiling or what floor I have on myself. I don’t pay attention to that. I feel that I could be a really good football player”.
Respectfully, Cam Heyward said he believes T.J. Watt can be better than J.J. if he continues to improve. Here’s how T.J. responded. pic.twitter.com/2q8vNWjIoc
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) January 24, 2019
In addition to his 13 sacks and six forced fumbles, Watt also recorded 68 tackles and three passes defensed. His responsibilities in coverage were significantly curtailed in comparison to his rookie season, during which he had seven passes defensed and an interception.
He saw the growth in himself from year one to year two, and is looking to keep it going, saying that the opportunity to participate in things like the Pro Bowl can only help fuel him. “Definitely being able to get invited to things like this helps confidence”, he said. “Confidence only makes people better. As the season went on, I feel like I grew more and more confidence”.
He talked about having the opportunity to converse with the likes of Von Miller and Dee Ford, talking shop with them and getting feedback. “It’s really cool to get the respect from your peers and I feel like it’s only going to make me a better player”.
When he returns to Pittsburgh, he will be without a position coach, as the Steelers chose not to renew Joey Porter’s contract. It’s still unclear how they plan to approach the position, but it has been suggested that defensive coordinator Keith Butler, who was the linebackers coach for a long time prior to assuming that post, would handle those responsibilities.