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: Up
Reasoning: The Steelers’ fullback could have been cut earlier this offseason, but instead the team decided to re-work his contract to provide them some cap relief. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada suggested during training camp that Watt could be utilized to help create mismatches against certain opponents this season.
Derek Watt signed a three-year, $9.75 million contract with the Steelers last offseason. To the best of my knowledge, it’s the second-largest contract ever signed by a fullback, short of San Francisco 49ers and former Baltimore Ravens standout Kyle Juszcyk, whose name I will never be able to spell without aid, despite the fact that I have Polish ancestry.
But he had a disappointing first season in Pittsburgh, even though in the end it didn’t look as bad as it seemed. Signed primarily for his special teams ability first and foremost, he still played over 200 snaps in this phase and registered eight tackles, even though he missed four full games, and parts of others, due to injury.
He only logged 52 snaps on offense, however, less than half of what he would average in his four years with the Chargers, and didn’t contribute much of anything when he did. Much like the rest of the run game, they did not move the ball well when he was on the field.
But as mentioned above, while many expected that he could be a candidate for release in order to save some cap money, they instead approached his contract and restructured it to provide them some cap relief, which moves more of his cap hit into the future. Generally, it’s seen as a sign that a team believes you’ll still be around when they touch your money.
And during minicamp, offensive coordinator Matt Canada was asked about Watt and how he might be used as part of an offense in which he hopes to emphasize putting players in positions to succeed, which includes putting the personnel on the field on a weekly basis that best takes advantage of what the defense gives them.
While not a major deal, he did say that he sees Watt as fitting into that philosophy. And it is also worth noting that Canada was his offensive coordinator for one year in college, so they have already had a prior history. That never hurts. Or, at least, rarely does.