Steelers Looking for Derek Watt to Begin Helping Run Game
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have struggled over the last three weeks to find any momentum from their backfield.
For three-straight games, the Steelers haven't registered a 50-yard runner after starting the season with 100-yard rushers in four of their first five weeks. And after their 36-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, where again James Conner struggled, the running game has become the offense's focus.
"We are not up to snuff right now," Tomlin said Tuesday about the Steelers rushing attack. "We accept ownership for that. We are going to roll our sleeves up and solve it."
To help with their success through the backfield, offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said the team will look to begin adding help in blocking. The name they'll begin centering that attention around is fullback Derek Watt.
"Sometimes in certain weeks by putting [Derek Watt] in a personnel group we can create maybe the structures we want to attack with the bodies they would attempt to play us in that personnel group," Fichtner said Thursday. "Sometimes, it’s really unique and you want to get to it. You want to have a plan off of it. Some weeks, it may take a back seat whether he’s healthy or not because it might not be in our best interest per se. Some defenses like the pressure, and they like to put them all up.
"Now you’re fighting city hall and just trying to get back to the line of scrimmage, making everyone a 1-on-1 block. Someone’s got to win, and someone’s going to try to whoop a man’s butt, too ... I see it coming, and it couldn’t be at a better opportunity or time because we are right halfway. It’s time to use him."
Watt's lack of availability has certainly clogged his path to becoming part of the Steelers' offense. He signed a three-year, $9.75 million contract in March but couldn't join the team until July due to COVID-19 shutdowns.
When he got to camp, he slowly worked his way into the workouts as he recovered from offseason surgery. Then, the season started, and he missed four games with a lingering hamstring injury. Now, he appears to be on the right side of the injury report.
In Week 10, he played 69% of the team's special teams snaps and added a tackle to his total on the season. The Steelers hope this boost in health helps him begin working into the offensive scheme.
"When we went out and got Derek, we were all excited about it," Fichtner said. "Then, COVID comes, you get no offseason, and Derek had some offseason cleanup things. He had a limited amount of camp. That probably put him behind the eight ball a little bit, maybe a little bit with us. He’s ahead of it now. It’s time to figure out how to use him the best, what can we get out of it. It’s got to be a part of our football moving forward because it can help. If nothing else, it will help potentially the run game. It will help in the play-action game."