There were three things crucial to the training camp experience for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2022 that made it fundamentally different from last season. One was the venue, of course, being back in Saint Vincent College. The absence of Ben Roethlisberger was also huge. But so was the presence of T.J. Watt, who last season was ‘holding in’ during contract negotiations, and thus hardly participated in training camp at all by the time his deal was signed.
While such ‘tactics’ have become par for the course in high-stakes negotiations, and it tends to be as much or more about the agents than about the players, Watt did talk about how, on a fundamental, it was difficult for him to sit out and how much he welcomed the opportunity to ball out in front of the fans this year.
“This is the best job in the world”, he told Tyler Dunne, writing for Go Long. “I never take it for granted. There are so many people who’d absolutely kill to be in the position that we’re in. So many fans come from all over the country and world to see us practice in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. If I’m not practicing as hard as I can, that’s a disservice to everybody who came out to watch”.
Those comments, of course, can apply to so much more than just what he does in front of fans in training camp. It’s how he approaches everything about his game, and all ties into what makes him one of the very best football players in the entire world.
And never for a moment has he seemed to take his job for granted. Even when he was ‘holding in’, he was doing his own work off to the side, and his training sessions away from the team, often with his brothers, are also well known.
Now entering his sixth season, there probably isn’t a whole lot Watt can do that he hasn’t already done when it comes to maximizing his game, but that won’t stop him from looking. These days, the only goals that he talks about are winning championships and, in pursuit of that, being a game-wrecker.
I truly believe that he isn’t satisfied with any play that doesn’t end in points for the defense whenever he’s on the field. Unless he’s scooping and scoring or running back a pick six, his attitude is that there is more he could have done, and thus more to work on.
Even coming off of a Defensive Player of the Year campaign, I can guarantee you that he has a whole tape reel of his negative plays that he’s spent more time studying than of anything positive he’s done. It’s just the way he’s wired. His teammates see that, and that’s as much the reason why he was voted captain yesterday as it is for the kind of stats he puts up. Plenty of incredible defenders are not captains. Being a captain is being more than just a great individual player.