To read the tweets and post practice reports from our very own Alex Kozora the last several days, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been using fullback Derek Watt some in the passing game so far this summer. On Monday, in fact, Kozora reported that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit Watt on a wheel route down the left sideline for 25 or so yards during practice. After Monday’s practice ended, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin addressed the media, and he was asked about Watt and the potential of the veteran fullback being used more in the passing game in 2021.
“And I think we’re discovering that through this process,” Tomlin said. “As you can see, we intend, potentially, to use that position more than we have in the past, or at least the recent past. And the plays that he makes the skill set that he shows will kind of dictate some of that discussion.”
The Steelers signed Watt as a free agent in 2020 but in his first season in Pittsburgh he was barely used when it comes to touching the football and he also missed quite a bit of playing time with a hamstring injury. In fact, Watt had just two carries in 2020 and both came in the team’s Super Wild Card game playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns. In his four previous seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers and San Diego Chargers, however, Watt registered 19 total carries for 49 yards and a touchdown in addition to catching 10 passes for another 152 yards.
Watt was asked after Monday’s practice if he’s starting to get a good feel early in training camp as to how he might be used offensively in 2021.
“You know, it’s still early in camp,” Watt said “You know, everybody’s got to have an opportunity to kind of show the coaches what they’ve got. And it’s a new offense this year, so kind of still feeling things out and we’ll kind of see as we progress. But, yeah, definitely, whether there’s a focus to try to get involved a little bit more and try to show them that I’m versatile enough to kind of bring more to the table today.”
With Matt Canada now installed as the Steelers new offensive coordinator for 2021 after previously spending 2020 as the team’s quarterbacks coach, Watt talked some on Thursday about how him having already worked with him and running backs coach Eddie Faulkner in college at Wisconsin might play into him getting used more as an offensive weapon in his second season in Pittsburgh,
“I actually was with Coach Canada for a year at Wisconsin, so I’m very familiar with him and Coach Faulkner, I was with him as well, he’s the running backs coach here. He was at Wisconsin as well,” Watt said. “So, I have familiarity with both of them. But definitely, I know when he [Canada] was at Pitt and other places that he definitely used my role a good amount. And like I said, I’m a little familiar with it and I’ve got a good feel for it now. So, just excited to see how it all pans out.”
While Watt certainly believes he might be used a lot more in 2021 on offense than he was in 2020, he made it clear on Monday that how much might be determined on a game-by-game basis.
“No question it’s about match-ups,” Watt said. “I mean, there’s definitely, you know, some schemes work better against certain teams than others based on their defensive structure or personnel. So, it may be like you referenced earlier, there could be a game, you know, you play a ton and there could be a game where it’s not so much. And obviously the course of the game, the way it plays out, dictates that a little bit as well. So, it’s kind of all situational-based and honestly, you never know. It could be heavy one game and not so much the other, so you really never have any idea.”
It certainly would be nice to see Watt play more on offense than he did in 2021, as he only managed to log 52 total snaps during the regular season. We might see him more at H-back and tight end in 2021 as well, despite him being listed as a fullback. Regardless of where Watt is asked to line up and play in 2021, he’s ready to do it all at any position they need him to play on offense.
“I’m comfortable with it,” Watt said. “Obviously I’m not as big as a tight end body, but again, I’ve got familiarity with Coach Alfredo [Roberts], [he] was my running backs coach with the Chargers, [and] now he’s coaching the tight ends. And, so, you know, I’ve got that good chemistry with him to kind of take that and the coaching. And we’ve got a good relationship to help me improve and learn for those things, if it does come down to that and playing a little bit more of that role to kind of develop those skills.”
So, about that big catch that Watt made during Monday’s training camp practice that Kozora reported?
“I did, I caught the one,” Watt said after practice. “It was just nobody covered me so got out that way and Minkah [Fitzpatrick] gave me a good hit at the end there.”