Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, 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 season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
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: FB Derek Watt
Stock Value: Purchased
The first addition of the offseason, the Steelers prior to the start of the new league year agreed to terms on a three-year contract worth nearly $10 million with fullback Derek Watt, the older brother of T.J. Watt.
Coming over from the Los Angeles Chargers, Derek has been not only one of the better fullbacks in the league, but has also emerged as one of the better talents on special teams, and both of those roles became more in need for the Steelers over recent days.
Former fullback Roosevelt Nix, who was released after the signing of Watt, is coming off a season in which he missed 13 games due to a knee injury, and it’s not the first time that his health has kept him off the field or limited him. He only played two full seasons out of five.
While the fullback position is not exactly in-demand in the Steelers’ offense—it hasn’t logged even 200 snaps in a single season since…probably Dan Kreider’s days—you still need one when you need one, and if your fullback can be a high-value contributor on special teams, it’s worth paying for.
Especially when you lose some of your most significant special teams contributors, which the Steelers did this offseason. They chose to release Anthony Chickillo and Johnny Holton, while also losing Tyler Matakevich in free agency. Coupled with Nix’s release, that is over 1000 special teams snaps lost in most years. even with Nix, who usually logs 300-plus snaps, limited to just 34 special teams snaps due to injury in 2019, the loss of those four players still amounted to close to 900 special teams snaps.
Watt, meanwhile, has played nearly 1200 special teams snaps over the course of his four-year career, including 326 in 2019, registering a league-high 16 tackles. Even if he proves to be a neutral, lateral move in terms of performance, his health and durability will be a clear upgrade.