One of the first UDFA signings the Pittsburgh Steelers made following the 2022 NFL Draft was UMass CB Bryce Watts. Watts recently talked to Olivia Hickey and Matt Sottile of the Western Mass News to talk about his excitement signing with the Steelers
“Growing up, my whole dream was to be in the NFL, and it felt surreal when the moment happened,” Watts said. “Pure excitement. First thing, I started crying, my family was there.”
Watts signed with Pittsburgh after one season at UMass, where he racked up 43 tackles and an interception for the Minutemen. He also had an interception and a pass deflection. He came to UMass after stints at Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
Watts also talked about his attitude working with the team and trying to learn.
“I’m just like a sponge right now. I’m just trying to soak up all the information that the coaches are giving me, and just try to learn and elevate my game to another level.”
Watts is an intriguing fit in Pittsburgh. The Steelers brought back Ahkello Witherspoon and signed Levi Wallace this offseason, but there’s no denying the cornerback room is a little bit short on depth. Watts is a former three-star recruit who experienced some success his first two years at Virginia Tech, proving he has the pedigree to compete against Power 5 talent. He transferred to UMass for his senior season to be closer to his family, as his mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Watts is originally from Toms River, N.J. and played against Kenny Pickett growing up. Watts calls Pickett one of his close friends.
“I grew up with him, played with him all the way through. He went to Oceah [Township High School] and I went to Toms River [North]. That’s what 20 minutes apart? It’s cool to be able to have him on my team and know somebody going there,” he told the Berkshire Eagle.
He’s also not short on confidence, tweeting on February 11 that he was the best corner in the draft class. Watts talked about his confidence and how it helps him as a defensive back.
“I think the biggest thing for me is my confidence. I’m a very confident player and I think you need that at DB, and especially in the NFL, to be successful you need that chip on your shoulder,” Watts said.
Out of all the Steelers’ UDFAs, I think Watts has the best chance of sticking on the Steelers’ initial 53-man roster. His athleticism paired with his will to learn and the Steelers’ lack of cornerback depth could make him a fit in Pittsburgh. He also chose to come to Pittsburgh, picking them over the Tennessee Titans, who also called him after the draft.
He’s likely going to be competing against fellow undrafted free agent Chris Steele along with former third-round pick Justin Layne for a spot on the team. Layne’s been with the team since 2019 but hasn’t made much of an impact, accruing 41 tackles and mostly playing on special teams. It will be interesting to see if Watts could possibly push guys like James Pierre or Arthur Maulet for playing time during training camp and the preseason. Behind Cameron Sutton, Witherspoon, and Wallace, there’s definitely going to be spots up for grabs, and Watts is a player I’ll certainly have my eye on when training camp rolls around in July to potential earn his way onto the roster..