Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, 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: OLB T.J. Watt
Stock Value: Up
Might as well save some of the most obvious for the late stages of the series, right? T.J. Watt is one of the bright young stars of this Pittsburgh Steelers team, but even with that said, his arrow is continually pointing up, with no clear view as to just how high it can go.
Entering his third season, Watt has already been to the Pro Bowl once and has produced 20 sacks, including 13 last year. He forced six fumbles, and both of those numbers are the most by any Steelers player since they last appeared in a Super Bowl.
Whether or not he statistically matches his production in 2019, however, there is plenty of reason to believe that he will be an even better player this year than he was last season. One of the biggest reasons for that is the fact that he showed continually growth throughout the previous season, so at the very least, he should enter this year at a higher level than he began last year, even though he had a statistically productive opener.
One of the biggest things to watch for with Watt, and which is common for pretty much all young players, is gradually putting together a pattern of consistency from one play to the next. It’s not about will or anything like that when it comes to the 2017 first-rounder, but rather making the right reads and finishing the plays he has a chance of making.
One thing that I don’t think has gotten talked about a lot this offseason is the fact that, in spite of the defense improving as a whole when it comes to tackling efficiency, Watt did have his struggles with missed tackles. Some of them were of the Ryan Shazier variety, in which he was in the backfield and his miss still enabled others to complete a positive play, but of course you want to finish every tackle that you attempt.
Watt has talked about wanting to take more calculated risks in his third season, being more comfortable in his role and in what he’s doing, to be able to make more plays for the defense. If he can do that, then the All-Pro list may be in his future. Maybe even Defensive Player of the Year, as his brother has won—a few times.