PITTSBURGH -- It's been three years since T.J. Watt has logged less than 850 defensive snaps for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year finalist is looking to land his first piece of NFL hardware but knows he's got limits on how much he can do in a ball game. The Steelers are handing the reigns to Alex Highsmith in place of Bud Dupree this season, which leaves questions to the team's depth behind the starters.
"We're looking for the third guy. We've always had a third guy to come in," defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. "Last year that third guy was Alex [Highsmith]. Of course, we lost Bud [Dupree]. ... We're looking for a third guy who can step up. Hopefully Cassius [Marsh] can step up and help us out as well. We'll see about that third guy."
Right now, the Steelers' options are Cassius Marsh and sixth-round pick Quincy Roche. Butler told media during minicamp that training camp and the preseason will allow the team to evaluate who's already on the roster before reaching out to free agents.
"That's going to be up to Mike [Tomlin] and Kevin [Colbert]," Butler said. "... We'll see as we go through camp and preseason."
If depth is an issue, Watt plans on playing as much as needed. The 26-year-old logged 83% of the team's defensive snaps last season.
"It's something that I always look at early in the season. It's something I'm well aware of as the season progresses as well," Watt said during minicamp. "I always want to be out there as much as I possibly can, but it's also about managing my play and how efficient I am when I'm out there. I don't want to be out there when I'm completely gassed.
The All-Pro's faith is in his team, though. Watt says that by the beginning of the season, the Steelers will have the pieces to keep him and Highsmith rested during games.
"It's what we do in training camp here," Watt said. "See what kind of depth we have behind us, and if we trust the guys behind us, which we always do come season, I have no problem with taking a break and letting the guy behind me go in and get some reps."
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