It’s a family affair in Pittsburgh. From the same ownership group throughout the franchise’s entire history to the players they select, there’s strong family ties. Pittsburgh has had numerous sibling pairings in recent years ranging from the Watts, Edmundses, Davises, Heywards and now the Herbigs after the Steelers drafted Nick Herbig last weekend to pair with big brother Nate Herbig.
In a first for him, Mike Tomlin took to Instagram to make a video explaining why the Steelers value NFL siblings so much and the uniqueness of those players.
Tomlin says there are tangible and intangible reasons why those with strong NFL bloodlines are attractive to Pittsburgh.
“Obviously football is a genetic game,” Tomlin said. “It is the height, weight, speed, change the direction…oftentimes, the blessings that God gives us when one person within a household has those talents, those abilities, chances are somebody with shared DNA has similar abilities.”
This appears to be the first in a series of videos Tomlin is doing this offseason in an attempt to offer his insight and input on the game to a wider audience. Though Tomlin is not consistently active on social media, his presence has grown in recent years, citing a need to stay current with today’s players in order to connect and relate to them.
The Watts are the most obvious example of that. With as good a football DNA as any, J.J. and T.J. Watt have gone on to become some of the most dominant players of their era. J.J. is a slam dunk future Hall of Famer while T.J. is squarely on that path. Between them, they’ve made ten Pro Bowls, eight All-Pro teams, and won four Defensive Player of the Year Awards. While Derek Watt doesn’t have the same accolades, the fact that three brothers cracked the 0.1% to make it in the NFL and play for several seasons is incredible and may not be seen again for quite some time.
Tomlin said that brotherly love also creates a competitive spirit from the time they’re a child, which follows them during their football career.
“I’d imagine the basketball games in the Watt backyard, for example, 20 years ago were highly competitive.”
Tomlin then shifted to the intangible reasons why the Steelers place a high priority on sibling background.
“I remember when, when J.J. got drafted, there was a little skinny 12 year old or so in the green room with him. Was skinny, had a mohawk. I grew to understand that kid was T.J. Can you imagine being 11, 12 years old watching a sibling get drafted? Hug the commissioner, sit in the green room, all that exposure for a young man. They don’t dream about the NFL man. They aspire to be in the NFL. And that mindset is different.”
For those kids, the NFL isn’t a dream. It’s a reality. They see it everyday. They follow their brother, watch him work, understand and now the steps and sacrifices needed to reach football’s highest point. It’s a highly motivating factor.
Though it’s a small snippet of the moment, you can see Derek and T.J. in the background as Watt’s named was called, the 11th-overall pick of the 2011 draft. It looks like T.J. has ditched the mohawk, probably a parent-directed thing, but it’s surreal to know years later, all three would share the same NFL field together.
Tomlin also related it to the Steelers drafting Connor Heyward last year and the impact it had on Cam and the rest of the locker room.
“There’s not a guy on our team that didn’t feel the emotions of Cam Heyward when he saw Connor score that touchdown in their hometown in Atlanta. And I think we all gained from that.”
An emotional moment for Cam that meant so much to him in so many different ways, brought to tears on the football field.
It’s interesting – and unexpected – perspective from Tomlin. And it sounds like we’ll be getting some more insights from him in the future.