On Friday, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for the month of November. That now makes twice this season he’s won the award as he also won it for the month of September. Watt seems to continually get better as an all-around defensive player and that’s not hard to write based on the stats he’s already posted this season. In short, it’s obvious. What’s not so obvious, however, is how Watt goes about getting better and better.
On Friday, Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler was asked to provide a reason for Watt’s continuous improvement and his answer was fantastic.
“Because he studies the game,” Butler said of Watt. “He’s always up there looking at film, grabbing film when he can, just getting in some of the coach’s offices and looking at film on his opponents. Trying to see TV copies, in terms of, you know, what they’re saying on the field, what the opposing quarterback might be saying on the field, what the offensive linemen might be saying on the field in terms of how they’re going to pick up or how they’re going to have a certain pass protection and stuff like that.”
So, there you go. Obviously, Watt hones his craft on the field not only in practices, but during games as well. On top of that, however, his pregame study habits are probably some of the best on the team right now.
Watt is now the first player since 2015, and second over the last 15 years, to record at least 11 sacks and 33 quarterback hits in the first 11 games of a season. The other player in 2015? Well, that was his brother J.J. Watt. Coincidence? Probably not as the older Watt has long been recognized for his study habits as well.
Is there a lesson to be learned here? Yes, probably, and especially for a young Steelers player such as rookie outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, who will now be starting opposite Watt now that Bud Dupree is out for the season with a knee injury. If Highsmith is smart, he’ll follow Watt around the facility every minute the two or at it. Maybe he already does and if so, that’s fantastic.
Watt will look to add to his league-leading sack total on Monday against the Washington Football Team. In that game, however, Watt will have a tough adversary in the form of Washington right tackle Morgan Moses. who has allowed four sacks so far this season. One thing’s for certain, however, Watt, short week and all, will have studied Moses extensively by the time the two faceoff Monday night at Heinz Field and you can take that analysis to the bank.
“So, this guy studies the game and it’s a constant thing for him to do because the game changes quite a bit,” Butler said of Watt on Friday. “I mean, it’s going to change from one week to the other because you know, the more you do the same thing, people in this league find you out. And so, he’s trying to, again, do stuff different and make sure he stays on top of his opponent. And that’s probably the best thing he does. I think he uses his mind as well as anybody.”