The Steelers know the road to the Super Bowl runs through New England. That’s why they focused on beefing up the defense this offseason drafting TJ Watt in the 1st round, and picking up Joe Haden (injured) who has re-established himself as an elite defender in Pittsburgh.
TJ Watt has an incredible motor, a high football IQ, the strength, speed, and physical attributes to make every play the Steelers ask him to.
Let’s start with his ability to set the edge:
TJ Watt has a great 1st step. He is simply more agile and quicker than most LTs he will line up against. In the play below, you can see him penetrate into the backfield and set the edge forcing Demarco Murray to choose between making a cut back into Cam Heyward and TJ Watt’s gap, or trying to make something happen off of #81s block. He actually made the right decision and picked up an extra yard by lowering his shoulder, but the play was busted overall thanks to TJ Watt setting the edge.
A ROLB being quicker than a LT makes sense. However, the strength of TJ Watt is just as impressive as his first step. Taylor Lewan is a 6’7 310 lb. monster of a human being getting pushed around like a 45 lb. sled. Mariota was able to make a quick read and avoid the sack here, but you can see Lewan is dangerously close to stepping on Mariota’s foot and probably breaking every bone in it.
This was a double play-action fake intended to get the defense moving to the left, while the LG, C, and RG swing out to the right as blockers for the RB catching the screen pass. However, TJ Watt gets into the backfield so fast Mariota has to flick the ball out to his RB before #67 can get a clean block on the defender. If this play had any more time to develop it would have easily gone for 20+ yards.
This play won’t get Watt any credit in the books, but it’s impressive how he’s able to shed the block and prevent Mariota from making a play outside the pocket.
He’s playing entire defensive drives, and then comes out making huge plays on specials team.
TJ Watt gets a hand on the kick, BLOCKED.
I can’t tell if this was bait coverage, or if Watt actually got fooled by the man coming in motion. Either way, he’s fast enough to make a diving play and prevent the 10 yard completion.
I was excited for the Steelers when they got TJ Watt with the #30 overall pick. I thought he deserved to go in the top 25 based off his physical attributes and last name alone. The Steelers knew they were getting a guy who could turn into an elite defender within the next 4 years, but I don’t think anybody expected Watt to step in and make the Steelers Super Bowl contenders in year 1.
I know TJ Watt alone doesn’t make the Steelers Super Bowl contenders, but he’s a huge upgrade from James Harrison. Harrison is still a bad dude, but TJ Watt opens up the defensive playbook with his combination of strength, speed, ability to play in coverage, and then he is able to step in and make plays on special teams.