Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for 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 move forward.
Player: OLB T.J. Watt
Stock Value: Up
T.J. Watt was arguably the only player on defense perhaps short of Cameron Heyward on Sunday who actually turned in a representative performance for himself. It was even enough to earn him honors by Pro Football Focus, who put him on their Team of the Week for the opening weekend. While he officially only notched a couple of tackles, he generated several pressures in the game and otherwise was impactful without recording official statistics.
But he also left the team early, suffering a hip injury in the fourth quarter that resulted in Anthony Chickillo finishing out the game (and now that I’ve mentioned his name, most of the comments will be about how much he sucks and that Tuzar Skipper should be on the roster. I know how this works by now).
While Watt started the week of practice only operating under a limited capacity, he was able to practice in full yesterday, which is obviously a good sign for his potential availability on Sunday during the Steelers’ opening game at home against the Seattle Seahawks.
Of course we’ll have to see what today looks like, ensuring that he doesn’t have any kind of setback. While he has had some minor injuries, the 2017 first-round pick has so far only missed on game in his career, so he has displayed good durability—even if he has missed extended periods of training camp in each of the past two years.
It’s quite apparent that Watt is already one of the Steelers’ most indispensible players on either side of the ball, and that was made even more obvious on Sunday when they designated him as the player who would wear the helmet with the communications to the sideline, giving him the responsibility of relaying the calls to the rest of the defense.
Getting him back on the field as quickly as possible, without threatening his health and effectiveness, is critical for the defense. He makes the whole unit better while he is out there…even if it might not always look like it.