Now that the regular season 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 have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season 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 reasoning. 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. Because of this, we can and will 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 veteran fullback is looking to make up for a disappointing first year in Pittsburgh, and has played well in the preseason. His teammates named him their special teams captain for the 2021 season.
Derek Watt has two very, very rich brothers now, after T.J. Watt just got paid, to the tune of $80 million fully guaranteed, though he’ll only see $36 million of that this year. That alone is reason enough for him to celebrate, not that he’s necessarily hurting for money himself, relatively speaking.
The middle brother signed as a free agent with the Steelers last year on a three-year deal worth nearly $10 million, which is quite good money for a fullback. Pittsburgh, though, brought him in primarily for special teams purposes.
He dealt with a lingering hamstring injury during the 2020 seaosn, however, causing him to miss several games and limiting his impact. He hardly played on offense at all, for one thing, though his contributions on special teams did perk up late in the year.
When healthy—and he had been healthy for his entire career up until last season—Derek Watt is easily a 300-snap special teamer who should record double-digit tackles in that phase of the game while also being an effective player on return units. He obviously showed special teams coordinator Danny Smith and his teammates a lot, given that they gave him the title of captain (while his brother lost his).
As a bonus, there have been some hints that offensive coordinator Matt Canada could possibly get him on the field more. While it generally came in response to targeted questions, he has discussed Watt as a potential matchup problem that he could utilize. We’ve seen them run some wheel routes for him this offseason, but, of course, he should be a component of the running game as a lead blocker as well.