‘Baddest Dude Out There’: T.J. Watt Believes Key To Success Is Mentality He Carries Onto The Field

In just five short years, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt has ascended from a raw, intriguing outside linebacker with terrific bloodlines into one of the very best players in all of the NFL, position be damned.

His relentless work ethic and physical gifted are a bit contributing factor into that, but to hear him speak about his growth and overall impact between the white lines, it has to do with his mentality, which he honed as the youngest of three growing up in the Watt household.

Appearing on the Pat McAfee Show Thursday from Radio Row in Arizona ahead of Super Bowl LVII, Watt discussed his mentality stepping between the white lines, that has led to some incredible success and put him on a path to a Hall of Fame induction when it’s all said and done.

“I think you have to have the mentality that when you step on the field, you’re the baddest dude out there. You have to,” Watt said to McAfee, according to video via the Pat McAfee Show’s YouTube page. “And all of that is brought in through the work and all the things behind the scenes, and that’s what’s been so awesome about having two brothers that have grown up in the same household that I have and make it to the NFL and do elite things.

“Those guys have not been closed door to me at all. They’ve been wanting to have me succeed. JJ, who just retired is like, ‘any way possible over these next few years that I can help you where I was injured and I couldn’t perform how I wanted to, where I can help you, please let me know.’ It’s just one of those things that…we talked about it in the weight room this week with interns. It’s, how do you gain respect in a weight room? How do you gain respect in a football field? Well, shut up and work to start. And then we’ll kind of start to like you, we’ll start busting your balls and everything goes from there. So, yeah man, I love football. I can only do it for a short amount of my life and I’m gonna give everything I can to this game.”

Watt certainly has given everything to this game, which has helped make him one of the very best players in the entire league since he entered the league as the No. 30 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Since that day, he’s earned four All-Pro accolades, five Pro Bowl trips, the NFL’s 2021 Defensive Player of the Year award, led the league in sacks in back-to-back seasons — which has only been done two other times — and tied Michael Strahan’s single-season sacks record at 22.5.

When he steps between the white lines, he is the baddest dude on the field. He changes the way offenses function, which plays right into the hands of his teammates on defense.

Without Watt in the lineup for Weeks 2-8 during the 2022 season as he recovered from a pectoral injury, the Steelers defense was a shell of itself. Once he returned though, a clear swagger and confidence was back as the league’s highest-paid defense returned to its high level of performance, helping the Steelers go 7-2 down the stretch to finish the season 9-8.

Having a brother like JJ at his side to help him continue to get better is a huge deal for Watt. Not many players in the league can say they have a three-time DPOY as an older brother and mentor at a similar position, but T.J. does, and it’s helped him ascend to some incredible heights he’s reached.

Even with all of his success, don’t expect that mentality to change any time soon. Soon to be 29 at the start of the 2023 season, Watt still has a lot left he wants to accomplish from a team and individual standpoint. Health will go a long way towards the Steelers and Watt accomplishing some lofty goals next season.

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