The Pittsburgh Steelers made a few moves at the fullback position earlier this offseason as Derek Watt was added via free agency and the team’s previous starter at the position, Roosevelt Nix, was released not too much later. Watt, who is also already a well-established special teams player in the NFL, is also now the second-highest paid fullback in the NFL after signing a three-year, $9.75 million contract with the Steelers. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about Watt on Thursday and specifically what he thinks the team’s new fullback can bring to the offense in his first season in Pittsburgh.
“You know, I think we’re in the process of discovering that as we familiarize ourselves with him and his skillsets and the things that he does well,” Tomlin said of Watt. “The known aspect of his game that was really attractive to us was his high level of productivity in special teams. I think he and Tyler [Matakevich] led the NFL in special teams tackles a year ago. And because we had an opportunity to play against his team [the Los Angeles Chargers] last year, we also were very respectful of his functional fullback skills. But some of the off-the-beaten-path things, maybe some of the additional things, we’re going to learn about him along the way.”
While Watt is a fullback and one that has proven himself to be a quality blocking one at the NFL level since being selected in the sixth-round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Wisconsin, he’s also averaged 6.9 yards per touch on his 29 total touches in the 64 total games he’s played in to date.
Watt has proven himself to be a successful short-yardage ball carrier so far at the NFL level as 10 of his 14 carries when needing 3 or less yards have resulted in him converting. 12 of his 19 total NFL carries have been run successes as well.
As a pass catcher to date, Watt has caught 10 of his 13 total targets for 152 yards. Three of those 10 receptions resulted in explosive plays of 20 yards or longer. During his college career, Watt was also occasionally given the opportunity to show off his catching skills as he registered 30 receptions for 309 yards and a touchdown in four seasons at Wisconsin.
At most, Watt is likely to log around 200 total offensive snaps in 2020 and that’s only if the Steelers have several leads later in games throughout the season and thus have the opportunity to run the football to put games away. More realistically, Watt will register around 125-150 total offensive snaps if he stays healthy all season. He has averaged 138 offensive snaps played per season so far in his NFL career.
Watt should be a core special teams player for the Steelers moving forward just like Nix was. Last season, Watt registered 16 total special teams tackles and that tied him for the NFL league lead with now former Steelers inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich. For his NFL career, Watt has registered 44 total special teams tackles and thus it won’t be surprising to see him wind up being named captain of that unit in his first season with the Steelers.
“It’s been awesome having Derek,” Steelers running back James Conner said of Watt on Wednesday. “He comes to work every day, he’s a leader as well. In the classroom, he sets the tone in there with his knowledge and how he’s picking things up. And on the field, he brings energy. So, excited to be with Derek, man, he has a great resume. He’s gonna help our team out a lot, especially on special teams as well. You know, the way he comes down on kickoff and as a fullback. So, he does it all so excited to be with him.”