2022 South Side Questions: Who Will Have Bigger Impact On Steelers’ 2nd Half, Pickett Or Watt?

The Steelers are at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, informally known as the South Side facility, now into the regular season. It’s where they otherwise train all year round, and the facility that Burt Lauten insists everybody refers to by its full name.

There are still unsettled questions that need answering, even deep into the regular season. They entered the process with questions in the starting lineup, in scheme, and elsewhere, but new problems always arise that need to be resolved.

Even questions about who’s starting and when may not have satisfactory answers in their finality, as midseason changes are certainly quite possible, for some positions more than others. We’re also feeling out how the new coordinator posts—or posts in new contexts—end up playing out.

There’s never any shortage of questions when it comes to football, and we’ll be discussing them here on a daily basis for the community to “talk amongst yourselves”, as Linda Richman might say on Coffee Talk.

Question: Who will have a bigger impact on the second half of the season: Kenny Pickett or T.J. Watt?

The quarterback position is the most important in football, about that, there can be no dispute. But it’s not true that every team’s most important player happens to be its quarterback.

If the 2022 season has shown us anything about the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s that T.J. Watt is their most important player, at least right now. While they have had the second-worst scoring offense through nine weeks, the defense has frequently been just as big of an issue as the offense minus Watt.

So the question that I pose is the following: will rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett or returning star pass rusher T.J. Watt have a bigger impact on the second half of the season for the Steelers? The preferred answer is always the quarterback, at least when it’s in a positive way, but is it the answer in reality?

It’s easy to slip into the idea that the defense fell apart this year because it hasn’t had Watt. But the defense had Watt last year in a historic individual campaign yet still had the worst defense in the league—and one that required Ben Roethlisberger to execute late-game heroics to record most of the team’s wins.

That’s where Pickett comes in. He had a big opportunity to earn some credit a couple of weeks back. The table was set for him to command a game-winning drive multiple times, but he turned the ball over instead.

But that was then, one game. It doesn’t dictate his future, including what he will do in the second half of the season. Head coach Mike Tomlin was the first to say that Pickett isn’t being graded on a curve and he needs to play winning football now, however.

We’ve seen glimpses of talent from him, some great throws, great decisions, and he’s largely been great under pressure, at least when he does throw the ball. But he still has to put it all together. If he does that, he can define the second half of the Steelers’ season. If he doesn’t, well, Watt still could as well.

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