Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: FB Derek Watt
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: After signing one of the largest contracts in NFL history for a fullback, Derek Watt had an underwhelming first season in Pittsburgh marked by injuries, which could potentially have his job security in jeopardy this offseason.
While it probably wouldn’t be accurate to say that there was a lot of enthusiasm for the signing of Derek Watt this year, Steelers fans do enjoy a good fullback, and the presumption was that that was what the middle brother of the Watt family would be bringing to the team this past season.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Though he missed four games due to multiple injuries, he still only logged just 52 snaps on offense, which is fewer than half of the number of offensive snaps than he had in any one year with the Los Angeles Chargers over the course of his first four seasons.
They did not employ him as a blocker very frequently, and frankly, when they did, it didn’t really make much of a difference. There probably aren’t more than a small handful of plays you could point to in which he had a positive effect.
Of course, he was primarily signed in order to play on special teams. He did manage to log over 170 snaps, but he was expected to be a 300-snap player. He averaged very nearly 300 special teams snaps over the course of his first four seasons in the league, including 326 in 2019. He did finish with eight tackles.
He was not used as a runner or pass-catcher at all during the regular season. He carried the ball twice on 3rd and 1 in the postseason, converting once and failing on the second attempt. But he was never used much as a weapon in Los Angeles, either.
Watt will have a base salary of $1.75 million in 2021, with a $1 million roster bonus due on March 22. Releasing him would shave off $1.66 million due to more than $1 million in prorated signing bonus from the 2022 season being accelerated. Right now, with roster displacement, the total savings of letting him go would be about just $1 million, but it would also clear nearly $3 million off the books for 2022.