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T.J. Watt Discusses ‘Void’ In Leadership Post-Ben Roethlisberger, Becoming Team-First Player

After the retirement of two-time Super Bowl champion and locker room leader quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers begin a new era on many levels. Naturally, high-impact veterans in defensive tackle Cameron Heyward and outside linebacker T.J. Watt appear to have assumed leadership roles. As one of the longest-tenured players for the Steelers, Watt’s soon-to-be six-year career arc has seen a massive upwards trend on and off the field. In an NFL Media interview with Scott Hanson and Kurt Warner, Watt discussed his leadership role as well as his becoming more of a team player as his career progressed.

“Yeah, there’s definitely a void in the leadership role, to have that guy that’s been there and won championships at a high level,” Watt stated in reference to Roethlisberger’s retirement. “That’s where myself and Cam Heyward can step up and truly be voice guys to show them how we do things.”

Replacing the leadership role and respect that a two-time Super Bowl champion had is far from an easy task. However, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year appears ready and more than willing to embrace the role. Since entering the league in 2017, it’s safe to assume that Watt’s many on-the-field accolades, as well as his respect and admiration for the Steelers organization and the city of Pittsburgh, have earned the respect of the locker room.

“My first probably like two or three years, I was very like – statistical goals. I want like fifteen sacks. I want X amount of TFLs, all this, all these stats. And there was a lot of me-stuff,” Watt stated regarding his embrace of a team-first mentality. “And at the end of the day, it’s all about how can I help this team be the best team possible and win a Super Bowl. And the goal now is just to wreck games and be an absolute game disruptor.”

As is the case with many players entering the league, Watt’s initial concern with stats was only natural for a young player seeking to make an impact. That said, Watt’s capitalizing on the team-first mentality speaks to his embrace of a leadership role and the example he seeks to lead by. Moreover, despite this embrace of the team-first mentality, Watt has no shortage of personal accolades, after tying the NFL’s sack record and winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2021.

Having recently signed an extension with the Black and Gold, Watt will be one of the team’s locker room leaders for the foreseeable future, seeking to pass his team-first mentality onto younger players. While replicating Roethlisberger’s locker room respect is a difficult task, Watt is certainly on his way to doing just that.

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