If you think back to the lead up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 season, everyone was talking about the proposed switch between Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt. Dupree, who started his career as the left outside linebacker (LOLB) but was going to swtich to the right outside linebacker (ROLB) spot opposite Watt.
Speculation ensued, as it always does, and fans wondered if this move would even be significant to talk about? As it turns out, it was.
Watt had his best year to date, hitting double-digit sack totals in just his second year, being the first OLB to reach double-digit sack totals since James Harrison did it almost a decade ago. But while some downplayed the move, Watt realized long ago how he could be have more of an impact from the left side of the defense.
“I was all for it,” Watt told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “I thought I would be a better football player from the left side. I just overall felt I would be a more comfortable player and I can use my eyes and hands to see into the backfield more and just be more aware of what is happening. In college I played both sides. We played field and boundary. I was always the boundary backer. I would play both sides throughout the game, throughout the year. The left side is definitely home for me.
“I don’t know why, but on the right side I felt like I couldn’t see through the left tackle to the quarterback to see what was happening. On the left side I felt more comfortable. I could see the quarterbacks arm motion. I could get up and affect more passes, even though I didn’t bat down nearly as many passes as I wanted to. I am a right handed dominant player too. Overall it was way more comfortable. If I go over to the right side now for a rep or two, it feels weird.”
Watt feels more comfortable, but when you look at his statistics it screams of how he is better suited for the LOLB position, at least from a production standpoint.
This from Varley’s article:
Watt led the Steelers’ defense and tied for second among all NFL linebackers with 13 sacks in 2018. He was the only NFL player to finish the 2018 regular season with at least 65 total tackles (68), 10 sacks (13) and five defensive forced fumbles (6).
Watt has recorded 20 sacks over the last two seasons, the most ever by a Steelers in their first two seasons in the NFL – and the fourth-most among all NFL linebackers from 2017-18.
When you look at those numbers you can see how Watt would be a player who could sit back and know his arrow is pointing up heading into 2019, but that isn’t the type of player Watt has become. Nor is that the type of family Watt is a part of.
“It’s about not being satisfied,” said Watt. “Don’t get me wrong, I feel like I had a good year, but I feel like I could have had a lot better of a year. As the season went on I definitely feel like I got better, that I caught fire towards the end of the season as a pass rusher, impact player. I wish I would have learned it quicker in the season. But I am happy it happened, I am happy I was able to learn what I was good at, what I could get better at. Then it’s about working on things I know I can get better at, things I can focus on this offseason. I am not satisfied, so I am going to keep working.”
Watt could be due for a breakout year, and no one would like to see that more than Steelers Nation and that home Heinz Field crowd when Watt gets to the quarterback and brings him down. How many sacks do you foresee Watt getting in 2019? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!