Derek Watt is not a focal point of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense. By now, that much is obvious. But the Steelers aren’t completely opposed to giving him the football either. Speaking to reporters Thursday, offensive coordinator Matt Canada praised Watt’s game and left the door open for him to be more involved in the future.
“I’m a big fan of his,” Canada told reporters in audio provided by the team. “His intelligence, his ability to do a lot of different things. Tough break, had a shovel to him, guy fell off late. I think it would have been a little better play than it was.”
Canada is referring to Watt’s three-yard catch in Monday’s win over the Bears, a designed shovel pass Pittsburgh ran several times in that game. Watt’s grab only went for three yards but could’ve been more, as Canada implied, had the line blocked it a half-second longer. RT Chukwuma Okorafor lost Akiem Hicks, who shed and made the tackle for just a short gain.
Watt has lined up all over the Steelers’ offense this season. As a traditional fullback, as a sidecar in the shotgun, as a H-Back wing, and has even split out wide a couple of times, including the first play of Monday night’s win.
“He can block, he can do some different things. He’s so smart and very versatile. So each week,, it’s a matchup deal. We’re trying to decide who we’re playing, who goes on the field when he comes in, who comes off the field when he goes out and what does that do for everybody else involved? Just so we could find a way to score.”
Watt’s reception against the Bears was his second of the season, the other also being a three-yard grab, his first two touches since being signed by the team last season. That’s coming off a productive and more importantly healthy summer as opposed to 2020, when injuries set him back throughout the year. Here’s what we wrote about his 2021 camp performance.
“A nice camp for the Steelers’ fullback who should be used more than last season. Part of that is health-related. His 2020 got off to a bumpy start with offseason surgery, causing him to be limited in camp before a Week 3 hamstring injury resulted in him missing more time. This year, Watt didn’t sit out a single practice and got involved in the offense after a slow start, ripping off a couple nice catches – including a one-handed snag – and some legitimate big plays. As a lead blocker, he performed well.”
Fast-forward to the regular season and Watt hasn’t been nearly as involved in the offense as he was this summer. He’s yet to log double-digit offensive snaps in a game, his season high being nine, nor has he played more than 14% of the offense’s snaps this season. He is, however, a valuable special teamer, captain of that unit and tied for the team lead in snaps in that phase of the game.
Canada admitted Watt’s involvement in the offense can ebb and flow week-to-week and change mid-game.
“Some weeks it’s bigger than others. And in some weeks we think it’ll be bigger than others and something happens. Some weeks you think it will be smaller and it becomes bigger. So every game is different. But I certainly think he’s a really good player and I appreciate him.”
Pittsburgh came out with a heavy approach against the Bears leading to a slightly higher snap count for Watt and more involvement in the offense. With Chase Claypool trending towards missing Sunday’s game against Detroit, the Steelers may be compelled to go bigger again.