Sibling rivalries are can be one hell of a motivator, as just about anybody who has grown up with a brother or sister can attest to, especially if they were close in age. When you ramp that up all the way to the highest level of professional sports, it can get pretty intense.
T.J. Watt, one of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ brightest young stars on the roster, has a near-impossible standard to live up to in his eldest brother, three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, the defensive lineman of the Houston Texans who was the pride of an all-time great defensive end class in 2011 that also produced Cameron Heyward.
In spite of the fact that he had missed most of the 2016 and 2017 seasons, J.J. came back and had a remarkable season last year, recording 16 sacks and seven forced fumbles along with 25 quarterback hits and 18 tackles for loss.
That is a fairly pedestrian season for J.J. And it still bested T.J.’s breakout rookie season, in which he recorded 13 sacks and six forced fumbles with 21 hits and 12 tackles for loss. It was an excellent season for the Steelers. But it pales in comparison to where he wants to be, guided by his brother’s standards.
That’s a story that Ramon Foster recently relayed when ESPN reporter Dan Graziano paid a visit to Steelers training camp earlier this month. “The biggest thing he’s doing right now is chasing his brother”, Foster said. “So long as he’s chasing him, I think we’re in a good situation”.
It’s fitting that J.J. has a new commercial out in which he talks about the importance of finding a rival, a nemesis, a player who wants to stop you at all costs, because there’s no better motivator for improvement than needing to be better than the person across from you. Or the guy you grew up with, who surely took his liberties about being several years older.
“He was telling me a story about how he ran up on his brother’s notebooks”, Foster retold of Watt; “how he had stacks and bundles of notebooks and how he just sat there and read through them and was like, ‘whoa, I’ve got to step my game up’. He realized what it actually takes to do the things that he wants to do from one of the greatest to ever do it”.
Having two older brothers already in the league was an incredible resource for T.J. to lean upon during his rookie season in 2017. It provided him with the groundwork for expectations transitioning to the highest level of the sport, and what it would take to make it there.
Now that he has arrived, the next step is reaching the pinnacle of your profession. And who better to learn it from than the person who has been at the top, frequently, and who is quite a bit like yourself? Make no mistake, they share a very health and supportive relationship. But you know T.J. wants to show he can put up the same numbers as his future Hall of Fame big bro.