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
Playing through an abdominal injury—on Saturday, he told reporters that he wasn’t anywhere near where he wanted to be physically—there were certainly stretches of last night’s game in which T.J. Watt was the best player on the field for either team.
He finished his night with another two sacks, forcing two fumbles, and recovering one of them himself, plus a tackle for a run stop early in the game. While he might have only recorded a statistic on those three plays, some of them were high-impact moments, particularly the first forced fumble, and that doesn’t tell the full story of his performance.
I don’t have a snap count just yet as of the time of this writing (which is, frankly, very early in the morning), but he seemed to have been able to play a very large portion of the game, which was more than I anticipated. I thought that Olasunkanmi Adeniyi would have been asked to shoulder a large portion of the load, and while he did get playing time, it wasn’t enough to make an impact, as he failed to register a statistic.
The simple fact that Watt was able to play as extensively as he did is a big story in and of itself, given the fact that he was dealing with an injury that could have limited him. The fact that he gave the Dolphins’ right tackle all he could handle, with a handful of pressures throughout the night in addition to his two sacks, is almost a bonus.
He now has six sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception on the season, along with a representative number of tackles, and appears to be putting himself on a path toward earning another trip to the Pro Bowl, though his draft classmate, Myles Garrett, is leaving almost everybody else behind.
Watt said before the season started that he felt more comfortable than ever before, and the next step he wanted to take was to create more splash. He has already been doing that on a significant level, and we still have more than half a season to go.