The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Los Angeles Chargers have faced off twice in the past two years—once on the west coast, once on the east. That means both Derek Watt and T.J. Watt have already had the opportunity to host the other in the NFL. But the next time they take the field, they will do so together, in the black and gold.
And the whole Watt family is excited about it, with older brother J.J. Watt even feeling a bit envious of their opportunity to play together. Derek, meanwhile, goes from a Chargers team that frequently played to half-empty stadiums to a Steelers team that has one of the richest fan traditions in the NFL, which he has seen firsthand, both as the home team and the visiting team. He’s ready to be a part of that.
“It’s an incredible atmosphere”, he told the team’s website after officially signing. “It was special playing there at Heinz Field. It was a night game. The atmosphere was electric. The Terrible Towels were waving. You could feel it. Last year in Los Angeles, Steelers Nation made it a home game for them. As a player, it made it tough. When you are on the road and you have fans that support you like that, you feed off that. I am excited to have them cheering for me instead of against me”.
While it’s often somewhat erroneously said that the Steelers fan base travels well, it’s typically more accurate to say that their fans are just spread out so far. That is in part due to the turn of the industry during the 70s and 80s that saw a significant number of people seek opportunities elsewhere in the country. They transplanted their families, and their fandoms, with them, and new generations of Yinzers have grown up around the country as a result.
That’s why every so often you see a Steelers road game turn into a home game the way Derek Watt experienced firsthand last year when the Chargers hosted Pittsburgh in Week Six. Astoundingly, the Steelers brought in a 1-4 team who was starting a rookie undrafted free agent quarterback, the first start of his career. They won.
Not to disparage the Chargers and their fans in any way, but there are few teams who can rival the sheer size and tenacity of Steelers fans, who are about as passionate about and loyal to their team as any—yet also as critical.
Fullback tends to be a popular position in Pittsburgh, for reasons I can’t imagine (read: actually, it’s quite easy to imagine). And the Watt name has earned pedigree in the city thanks to younger brother T.J. So Derek should fit right in. But after that, it’s up to him to perform.