The Pittsburgh Steelers paid good money in Fullback Dollars to bring in the middle brother, Derek Watt, who spent his first four seasons in the NFL with the Los Angeles Chargers. While their primary interest in him was for special teams purposes, they also, naturally expected him to be involved in the offense, and given his four-year history of durability, they didn’t anticipate any problems there.
Flash forward, and we find that the fifth-year fullback has already missed four out of the first nine games due to a prolonged and reoccurring hamstring injury, which is what you do not want to hear. While availability is an obvious obstacle toward playing time, however, so, too, is the basic fact that the fullback is a dinosaur position on a roster full of receiving talent, which offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner conceded earlier today, saying that it was “no doubt” an issue, via transcript.
Whether an issue or not, however, there’s no question that they envisioned him playing more than the 31 offensive snaps that he has commanded so far through five games (and he has just 87 snaps on special teams after averaging more than 300).
“It’s a fine line, but I know if he had been here healthy through training camp, I think we would have felt better about some of the things live that he would have been able to do”, Fichtner said. “I think we are still trying to find that out. I know he’s an intelligent football player. I know he’s got great will…I see it coming, and it couldn’t be at a better opportunity or time because we are right halfway. It’s time to use him”.
Easier said than done, of course. The Steelers’ ‘base’ 11 offense features JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool at wide receiver, with Eric Ebron at tight end. Which of those four players do you want to take off the field in order to put Derek Watt on?
POLL: Which player do you want kept off the field more so that Derek Watt can get more fullback snaps?
— Steelers Depot 🦃 (@Steelersdepot) November 19, 2020
And how do you do that without telecasting the fact that it’s a running play? You have to, of course, throw the ball a bit when he is on the field, but at the same time, when you do, you are depriving yourself of one of your best receiving options.
Head coach Mike Tomlin said earlier this week that they were endeavoring to get the running game sorted out after three weeks of subpar performances from the unit. Presumably, Watt would be a part of that solution, but the truth is that they have not run the ball well when he has been on the field.
The fifth-year man not only came to a new team this year in which there were no Spring workouts, he also spent his time in training camp recovering from injury. And now he’s been injured for half the season. He should certainly be motivated at this point to try to justify his contract.