'He Basically Asked for My Blessing': T.J. Watt Explains Steelers' Signing of Brother Derek

Noah Strackbein

The Steelers made a splash in free agency this offseason, adding three veterans with names most fans knew before they inked their name in Pittsburgh. 

That splash started with fullback Derek Watt, signing a three-year, $9.75 million contract to join his brother T.J. with the Steelers. 

The signing came as a bit of a shock to many fans, as the Steelers still had fullback Rosie Nix on the roster. But the decision to add a second Watt brother wasn't a last-minute choice by head coach Mike Tomlin, though. In an interview with CBS Sports' Evan Washburn earlier this week, T.J. reveals Tomlin was scouting Derek for much longer than this offseason. 

"Whenever we played Derek, we played him the last two seasons when he was with the Chargers, Coach Tomlin would always say, 'Your brother's playing really well,'" Watt said. "And I'd just be like 'Yeah okay,' and he'd be like, 'No, I mean it. He's playing really well. He's a really good special teamer and he's a really good fullback dive guy and he can also catch out of the backfield.' And then, this offseason, right before I came back to Wisconsin we had an exit meeting and he was like, 'I understand your brother's a free agent, we might possibly be interested in him.'"

Watt said he didn't take Tomlin's words seriously when he left Pittsburgh. Once free agency started, though, things became very real for the brothers.

"I kind of blew it off and then right before the free agent signings he called me and he was like, he basically asked for my blessing if I would be okay with him to be on the team," Watt said. "I said 'Yeah, is that even a question?' I think he's a great guy. Obviously he's my brother, but I also think he would be a great asset to our football team.

"A few hours later, my trainer called me, the Pittsburgh Steelers head trainer called me and said, 'It sounds like we're very interested in your brother and we want to set up a physical.' I think that he kind of blew the cover because then a few minutes later Derek called me and said, 'I'm signing with the Steelers.'"

Two-thirds of the Watt brothers will rejoin in Pittsburgh for the first time since their college days at Wisconsin. T.J. said he and Derek weren't always the best of friends growing up, but now they're as close as any two teammates could be. 

"It's gonna be awesome. I played with Derek in high school, I played with him in college," Watt said. "We've grown, we were the two that fought the most growing up and my dad always said 'You guys can be best friends someday just wait and see.' And we truly have become so much closer and I'm excited to be able to play with him again."

The Steelers are scheduled to play the Houston Texans and J.J. Watt in Week 3. It'll be the first meeting between all three Watt brothers during their NFL career. Pittsburgh watched three Edmunds (Terrell, Trey, and Tremaine) battle at Heinz Field in 2019. For T.J., he's hoping to get that same experience. 

"Oh man, I've been asked this question so many times over the last just because my rookie year I was supposed to play J.J. down in Houston, and then the last few years I was scheduled to play Derek and J.J.," said Watt. "To be honest with you my only response is just like you said, I just want to get there healthy. I want all three of us to be able to be there healthy and be on the same field. Just get that picture, I think first and foremost, just to have that memory. 

"And then, from a competitive standpoint, I've watched J.J. ever since he was a rookie in Houston and I've watched all of his film, I still watch all of his highlights and try to take moves from him and stuff so to be able to watch him on the sidelines do what he does, you won't see me sitting down drinking Gatorade, you'll see me up on the sidelines watching him play." 

Noah Strackbein is a Senior Writer at AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.

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