The Pittsburgh Steelers had great success during T.J. Watt’s rookie season. They were in a position back during the draft where they were drafting 30th overall because they were able to advance to the conference finals, and then they proceeded to have a 13-3 year, even if it ended prematurely in the playoffs.
Since then, however, despite Watt blowing up and become one of the very best defensive players in all of football, it hasn’t translated into team success. After going 9-6-1 with a relatively complete roster in 2018, and still missing the postseason, they ‘bottomed out’ with an 8-8 effort a year ago in a season full of injury. So what is the focus heading into tomorrow’s season opener against the New York Giants, who have been selecting toward the top of the draft lately?
“We’ve got to take care of this week before we can think of any playoffs”, Watt told reporters last week. “I think it’s important to be one game at a time, one practice at a time, and that’s what I love about this defense. We’re flying around. We’re making plays every single day out here on the practice field. We’re more than anything just excited to be able to go up against a different team”.
There was a time not too long ago that the Steelers were accused of looking ahead of one of their opponents. You will surely recall this incident, and the fact that it did not end well. It was Watt’s rookie year, and even head coach Mike Tomlin said of the New England Patriots that he felt they would be playing again.
They would have, if they were able to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional round. But the defense was mauled by Leonard Fournette and Blake Bortles—really, their offensive line, who admitted had the advantage of taking on a Steelers front seven littered with injuries, not even including Ryan Shazier.
But they didn’t, so they went home in shame, or rather stayed home. And then their offensive infrastructure began to crumble, but a new nucleus formed with JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner—who are now set to leave in free agency in March, which is yet another helpful reminder of the importance of taking things one step at a time.
All of that talent will be on the roster for all of 2020. They are all in on this season. In order to make the most of it, you can’t get caught looking ahead—especially now with there being only one bye week, if you want to earn that top seed.