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Steelers' Derek Watt Making Early Impression

The Steelers new fullback has impressed through the first two weeks of training camp.

PITTSBURGH -- A running back's best friend has always been a fullback. The big-bodied blocker leads the way into the hole and creates space for guys like James Conner and Benny Snell Jr.

This summer, the Steelers running backs are adjusting to life with a new back in front of them. The team released Rosie Nix after five seasons in Pittsburgh and signed Derek Watt to a three-year deal, $9.75 million contract. 

The change hopes to bring better results in the run game and special teams. While everyone is still adapting to the late return to training camp, head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters that the new fullback is showing all the signs they wanted to see.

"I think we are in the process of discovering that as we familiarize ourselves with him and his skillsets and the things he does well," Tomlin said last week in a Zoom call. "The known aspect of his game that was really attractive to us was his high-level of productivity on special teams. I think he and Tyler [Matakevich] led the NFL in special teams tackles a year ago. And because we had an opportunity to play against his team last year, we also were very respectful of his functional fullback skills. But some of the off the beaten path things, some of the additional things, we are going to learn about him along the way."

Last season, when asked about the team's former fullback, Rosie Nix's possible return from a knee injury, Conner's face lit up in a smile. 

"That's who I'm most excited about," he laughed. "A Pro Bowl fullback. You lead the way, he goes head first into people, man, I need that. I'm just happy to have him back."

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This year, he'll have a new runner leading the way. Watt is more known for his special teams but is a very capable fullback in the backfield. 

Conner sees the potential of having another Watt brother on the team, charging through the offensive line with him. So far, it's been "awesome." 

"He comes to work every day," Conner told reporters. "He's a leader as well. In the classroom, he sets the tone in there with his knowledge and how he's picking things up. On the field he brings energy. I'm excited to be with Derek. He has a great resume. He will help our team out a lot, especially on special teams as well. You know, the way he comes down on kickoffs and being a fullback, he does it all. I'm excited to be with him."

The Steelers offense looks a little different in 2020 than it did in 2019. Ben Roethlisberger is back behind center, there's a new starter on the offensive line, and Watt is manning the fullback position. 

The team is looking to move forward from last season, with Watt being part of the future. 

"You just be a professional, and you just realize you can't get time back," Conner said. "You can't get plays back. You always have to have that next play and next opportunity mindset. We have the opportunity now to come together during this weird time, and we are making the most out of it. We're putting our best foot forward and just coming together. We can't do anything about last year, so we are just looking forward to this year."

Noah Strackbein is a Publisher with AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.