The Pittsburgh Steelers will have quite a few big decisions to make in the early portion of their 2021 offseason and most definitely ahead of the start of the new league year on March 17. Several of those decisions the team has forthcoming will revolve around whether or not contracts of certain players need to be terminated prior to the start of the new league year in March. In this short series that will run the next few weeks, we’ll have a look at the Steelers players currently under contract for at least the 2021 season that plausible candidates to be early offseason roster casualties.
First up in this Keep or Cut series is Steelers fullback Derek Watt.
Player: FB Derek Watt
2021 Total Scheduled Earnings: $2,750,000
2021 Total Scheduled Cap Charge: $3,833,333
2021 Total Potential Pre-Displacement Cap Savings: $1,666,666
2020 Regular Season Snaps Played: 52 Offense; 210 Special Teams
2020 Regular Season Stats: 0 targets, 0 receptions, 0 yards, 0 touchdowns, 8 tackles
Reasons To Cut: I addition to the obvious of saving nearly $1.7 million against the team’s salary cap prior to roster displacement, Watt’s 2020 production was very underwhelming and especially on offense with him barely getting over the 50 snaps played mark. Watt missed three games with a hamstring injury and another game he was forced out of early due to a concussion. The Steelers offensive production with him on the field was not great and several times, 23 in total, he was inexplicably asked to line up like a tight end and not in the backfield. As a blocking fullback and tight end, Watt was below the line in his performance in 2020. Watt carried the football twice in the team’s lone playoff game in short yardage situations and was successful just once. While he was billed as an exceptionally good special teams player upon signing with the Steelers, Watt’s seven total special teams tackles in his first season with the Steelers weren’t overly impactful. While he might be a Watt brother, this middle Watt brother certainly didn’t play like one for the Steelers in 2020.
Reasons To Keep: For starters, the Steelers really won’t save that much in salary cap space by cutting Watt after roster displacement takes place. Basically, that amount will be $1 million and that’s not a lot. For basically just a $1 million cap cost to retain, Watt deserves a second shot to prove that 2020 was a fluke and especially when it comes to his availability. We’ve seen Watt be a lot more impactful on special teams when he was with the Los Angeles Chargers and the same goes with him at fullback as well. The Steelers barely used him as a lead blocker in 2020 and if kept, that will need to change in 2021. He should log at least 100 offensive snaps in 2021. The Steelers longest running back run of 2020 came with Watt on the field and leading the way. Watt is also a Watt and that means he’s a great teammate to have in the locker room and not a player you need to worry about when it comes to actions both on and off the field. If retained and if he stays healthy, Watt could go back to being one of the premier special teams players in the NFL in 2021. The cost to cut versus the upside to retain probably plays in his favor.
Dave’s Recommendation: This all comes down to two things with Watt. First, the Steelers don’t save all that much in true cap space by cutting Watt after roster displacement takes place. Just a million and that’s it. Second, he’s a Watt and thus it’s tough seeing him being as bad and as nonproductive as he was in 2020 again in 2021. I would assume that the Steelers new offensive coordinator, whomever it winds up being, would use Watt roughly double the amount he was used in 2020, or close to it, and especially as a true fullback. The Steelers special teams units would need to find a core replacement for Watt if he’s cut as well. Great core players are tough to find and when healthy, Watt has proven in the past to be a great one. In closing, the Steelers should seriously consider retaining Watt for the 2021 season and pray that he doesn’t have as bad of a season that he had in 2020. They can find another million to save cap-wise elsewhere.