I don’t know if it’s becoming increasingly common globally, but certainly for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they seem to have put a greater emphasis on football bloodlines in constructing their roster. They already have a couple of pairs of siblings on their own 80-man roster. They also have a number of players who have siblings in the league, or fathers or uncles who have been in the game as well, whether it’s Devin Bush or Benny Snell or Carlos Davis.
The Steelers possess two thirds of two of the most prominent sets of three brothers in the NFL in the Edmundses and the Watts. They drafted the youngest, T.J. Watt, in the first round in 2017 after his oldest brother, J.J., had already earned Defensive Player of the Year honors three times. This offseason, they added the middle Watt, Derek, at fullback.
“It’s been awesome, a very surreal experience just to be able to be out on the practice field and look over and see the Watt on the back of the jersey on someone else other than myself and just be able to go over there and talk to him about how he’s enjoying his experience in Pittsburgh”, T.J. said about having his brother in the locker room.
“I’m so used to the process here that it’s all new for him”, he added. “So sometimes I may take things for granted that he’s seeing for the first time. I’ve obviously been able to see him a lot off the field as well. He lives in my neighborhood here in Pittsburgh, so it’s been awesome to be able to see him and his family, and obviously my nephew as well”.
Of course, the Steelers didn’t sign the fullback just to give T.J. somebody to talk to. In point of fact, they made him the second-highest-paid fullback in the game, and he’s going to be expected to play—even if a lot of that playing time is going to come under Danny Smith.
While they may not spend any time on the field together during games, however, T.J. knows what Derek can contribute as a fullback player, calling him “a very well-rounded athlete. First and foremost, he can catch the ball out of the backfield. He can line up wide and run crisp routes. Obviously we know that he can block, being a fullback, whether it’s routing a guy out in backs on backers, or if it’s cutting on the edge, I think that he can do a multitude of things”.
He also mentioned his special teams contributions, where he led the NFL in tackles a year ago. “I know that he takes great pride in just being the ultimate team player and trying to make an impact the best way that he can for his team”, he added, finishing by saying, “I’m excited to have him”.
I’m not sure how much enthusiasm there was in the fanbase in paying a fullback $3.25 million per season, when he may only play 140 snaps on offense, but nevertheless, this is where we are. And, I suppose, it’s yet to be determined exactly what his role will be. Perhaps Matt Canada has something in mind.