On a team full of loud personalities, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ top draft choice from 2017 was one of the quieter voices in the locker room last year. While T.J. Watt might share many of his famous older brother’s characteristics, J.J.’s outgoing personality didn’t appear to be one of them during his rookie season.
Focused on adjusting to life in the NFL and learning a new playbook, it was noticeable that Watt was keeping his head down and avoided being swept up in the usual hype that follows a first-round draft pick. Heading into his second year, it was a visibly more confident and comfortable T.J. Watt who sat down with Lance Allan of WTMJ-TV to talk about the upcoming season and the difference in Year 1 compared to Year 2.
“I’d say it’s night and day, it really is. Just because I know all the guys, I know the playbook, I know the coaches and I’m just comfortable. I don’t have to be somebody that I’m not, I don’t have to be as quiet. I was really quiet last year, I was just trying to stick to the books and do as best as I can on the field. but now, I can have a little bit more of a personality, kind of just be an all-around great football player, but also be a great teammate for my guys. I think it’s going to be a great year for not only myself, but for the team and I’m just really excited for it.”
Fans should not expect elaborate sack dances choreographed by JuJu Smith-Schuster, but they might get to learn a little bit more about the team’s emerging linebacker in 2018.
“I just want to show more personality. I think it’s important for, not only my team, but for the fans and people to know who I am as a person. It was just so important to me to be a great football player, because, unless you’re playing great football, people aren’t going to care about you as a person. I really wanted to take care of that business and now show my personality, but also keep playing football really well.”
Showing a level of maturity that belies his young age, Watt took a refreshing approach to his debut season, one many rookies would be wise to follow.
“I didn't want to go in making claims, being a loud mouth, trying to be funny and do things and then go out on the field and lay an egg. I truly believe that you have to earn your respect from your elders and your peers through the hard work and the dedication that you show, At the end of the day, it is not way you say, it is what you do. I’m not satisfied with what I did last year, but I’m happy with how it ended and I feel I can definitely open up a little bit more, and I think opening up a little bit more will also help me on the field.”
T.J. will not face J.J. this year, unless both of their teams make the playoffs. But he’s set to meet brother Derek in Week 13 at Heinz Field when the Steelers host the Los Angeles Chargers — a game T.J. is already looking forward to.
“I’m excited, I’ve never been to Derek’s place in L.A, he’s never been to my place in Pittsburgh so, and when they travel across, they’ll stay two days. So, I’m excited to have him over to the house, maybe get him a nice cooked dinner, I’ll make sure I don’t poison the food for him. It’ll be fun, I’m excited. We went up against each other a few times at Madison [Wisconsin University] and if that happens, we’ll see who gets the better of each other.”
While that game is still several months away, the trash talk has already started between the two brothers after Derek fired the first shot in his own sit-down interview with Allan a few weeks earlier. According to the Chargers’ tight end, he has plans to set his younger brother up with a move that should go for big yardage,
”I’ll do whatever I can to sell it. Like I’m going to come and cut the crap out of him and slip on by him and get a big play.”
A challenge T.J. is more than ready for.
“I saw something like that. If he goes to cut anywhere in my vicinity, he’s on the ground. So it’s not going to happen. I don’t know what was in his meal that morning, what made him say that, but it’s not going to happen.”
Tasked with moving to the left side of the defense, it will be interesting to note how Watt adapts to his new role in 2018. Noticeably bigger than he was during his rookie season, it’s obvious that Watt has added more muscle to his frame for this season and his progress during training camp should be one of the highlights to watch in the coming weeks.