By the end of the year, the Pittsburgh Steelers established themselves as having one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2019. They were among the leaders in points allowed, yards allowed, they led in sacks and takeaways. There wasn’t much that they didn’t do well, especially once Minkah Fitzpatrick got on board.
But this group, though, 2019 was just the appetizer. They still have their sights set on even higher ambitions. To them, what they did last season was still not at the level that they want to be. Or at least so says T.J. Watt, who is arguably the best player on the team.
Speaking to Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller on SiriusXM Radio earlier tonight, he told his hosts that one area that they want to improve upon is their work on the ground. “We want to smash the run”, he said. The Steelers actually had one of the better run defenses in the league statistically last season overall.
“In the NFL, I always say, anybody can have one good game. Anybody could have one good year as a defense”, Watt went on to say. “But you have to be a consistent player. You have to be a consistent team. And we want to be a consistent team that’s always on the rise. We want to be known for our defense and known for us flying around making splash plays, interceptions, just taking the ball away and helping our offense in any way that we possibly can. Last year was last year. We’re looking to do things bigger this year”.
They already had three players on the first-team All-Pro list last year in Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Fitzpatrick. Joe Haden also joined them in the Pro Bowl. It’s a lofty ambition to be even better than this group was last season. But you have to set your sights higher in order to get better.
Watt, though, is the sort of player who never believes there isn’t room for improvement. Unless he’s forcing a fumble and returning it for a touchdown for every play he’s on the field, he’s going to continue to push himself to get better than he is.
This in spite of a year in which he recorded 14.5 sacks with 14 tackles for loss and eight forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and two interceptions, along with eight passes defensed. And this was in a year in which the defense moved further away from dropping their outside linebackers into coverage.
Of course, it’s not all on Watt. Stephon Tuitt coming back is big as well. Devin Bush moving into year two is big. Having Fitzpatrick in the system for a full offseason is another step forward. That whole secondary having cohesion will only strengthen them as a group. So perhaps it’s not out of the question to believe they can really take this thing to another level this year.