On Friday, Pittsburgh Steelers OLB T.J. Watt jumped on Movin’ The Chains on SiriusXM NFL Radio: Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan to talk about the additions of Myles Jack and Larry Ogunjobi to the defense, playing a physical style of football, as well as the mobility at the QB position, which he also talked about on Inside Training Camp Live on NFL Network.
When asked about what DC Teryl Austin has said to the defense thus far in training camp that has resonated with Watt, he responded saying that Austin’s message to the defense has been loud and clear.
“Stop the run,” Watt said on Movin’ The Chains on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I mean, that’s as a defense, that is first and foremost every year, but let alone after the year that we had last year. It’s absolutely unacceptable to have multiple rushers over a hundred yards in a season. And that’s something that, he’s addressed, we’ve all addressed and we know, and that’s why we’re hitting every day.”
Last season, the Steelers had their worst season in team history when it came to their run defense. They surrendered the most yards (2,483) and highest yards per carry (5.0) of any team in the NFL in 2021. After losing Tyson Alualu early in the season to a fractured ankle along with Stephon Tuitt missing the entire season with a knee injury along with grieving the loss of his brother, the defensive front was a shell of its former self, seemingly allowing 100-yard rushers on a regular basis with backs running buck wild on them into the secondary.
That is not what Pittsburgh Steelers football has traditionally been. The Steelers have been known for the vaunted defensive units that shut down opposing running games and make splash plays at the most crucial times of the game to tip the scales of victory in their favor. Austin recognizes this and has made it known throughout the offseason, stating the defense needs to get back to the fundamentals and basics when it comes to manning gaps and getting off blocks to make plays.
The players have also been vocal about the elephant in the room regarding their porous job stopping the run last season, agreeing with Austin that it comes down to the execution of the basis in order to be a successful run defense.
T.J. Watt not only has taken a bigger leadership role on the defense this offseason coming off a historic 2021 season and winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award, but also has become more of the face of the franchise now that Ben Roethlisberger has retired. He understands what the standard is in terms of Steelers football and the expectations of what a Steelers defense is supposed to be, hence the emphasis in training camp to become a more physical unit than what there were in 2021.
Time will tell if all the talk about improvement comes to fruition, but seeing as it’s become an active priority every day on the practice field as well as in the film room, one can hope that a resurgence of a stout run stopping unit could be on the horizon for Pittsburgh in 2022.