How Derek Watt Fits with the Pittsburgh Steelers
A few former Wisconsin Badgers found (either reportedly or officially) new homes in the NFL last week during the first wave of free agency signings.
One included a small family reunion on the professional football field.
On March 25, the Pittsburgh Steelers officially announced that they had signed fullback Derek Watt.
The former Badger played four seasons for the now-Los Angeles Chargers and became one of the leading blockers for a former Wisconsin standout in Melvin Gordon.
A sixth-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft by the AFC West organization, Watt has played in 64 total games during his current four-year career. According to NFL.com's stats, he has only run the ball 19 times for 49 yards in his quartet of seasons. However, he also contributed 16 tackles in 2019 and is known as a key special teams player.
Now Derek once again joins up with younger brother, T.J., as teammates -- this time at the professional level.
What were your overall impressions of the signing?
Strackbein: My first thought was, “Wow, this is going to be a fun locker room". The Watt brothers are known off the field for the relationship they all have with each other and having that in Pittsburgh immediately adds to an already fun locker room. Derek is an upgrade on special teams and will certainly help with the running game. The Steelers lost three-fourths of their special teams aces this spring in Tyler Matakevich, Anthony Chickillo and Rosie Nix. Adding Watt makes up for that and his expectations are to have a heavy dose of special teams action in Pittsburgh. His reliability when it comes to health is also a factor you take into consideration. Nix had a hard time seeing the field in 2019, and Watt has never missed a game in his career.
We know about his blocking ability, but he's also quite a special teams presence. How do you feel he will plug into particular roles for Pittsburgh?
Strackbein: Watt said himself that he and Tomlin talked about the role he'll play a little but really all he knows right now is there's going to be a lot of special teams work put on his shoulders. He's known to be a special teamer and Tomlin loves his aces on punt and kick coverage. He'll make an impact on offense, but you'll really see a lot of him on special teams.
Where do you feel he can positively impact the Steelers, and vice versa, any concerns about the signing?
Strackbein: There aren't any concerns about the signing. Some say the price was too high but the Steelers walked out of the first two weeks of free agency in pretty good shape. For a team that just started to find itself last season in special teams, Watt should help the team make that next step. James Conner will be thrilled to have a quality fullback to run behind, even though he always praised Nix. Going off of what he's done thus far in his career, there's nothing major to worry about.
Lastly, how T.J. developed into a standout edge rusher? Are you ready to cover two Watt brothers?
Strackbein: T.J. Watt is only getting started. He's one of the hardest working players in the entire NFL and his teammates constantly contest for that. Everyone knew he had the talent to make it in the NFL when he left Wisconsin but his development over the last three years has been totally under looked. He'll be pushing for Defensive Player of the Year again in 2020 and he now knows he needs to go above and beyond to actually win it.
When it comes to covering the Watt brothers together, I can't wait. The Steelers locker room is always a very upbeat, fun environment. Adding Derek to the mix is only going to bring more character.