It’s no surprise to any Steelers fan that T.J. Watt is one of several young superstars on Pittsburgh’s defense who is taking the league by storm. After being a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year in 2019, Watt is still on his rookie contract and has a bright future ahead of him in the NFL. But does he have the tools necessary to reach the level of his older brother J.J. Watt?
In his first five seasons in the NFL, J.J. earned four Pro Bowls as well as four All-Pro selections while being Defensive Player of the Year three times. Since then, J.J. has struggled with injury and his only season where he played more than half of the games was in 2018, In said season, Watt returned to Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors, so staying on the field seems to be his biggest adversary.
So other than hardware, is J.J.’s career path still superior to that of T.J., or will the youngest Watt brother surpass J.J. as he continues to explode onto the scene? These are a few of the items outlined by SB Nation writer at Niners Nation Alex Rollins. Check out his latest video feature on YouTube below.
First off, the breakdown of the skill sets each brother brings to the table is fantastic. Rollins assessment of T.J. Watt compared to J.J. seems fair, but there is one thing which seems to hold too much weight — playing anywhere on the defensive front.
As mentioned in the video, J.J. Watt holds a significant weight advantage over T.J. when looking at their current playing weight in the NFL. Part of the reason this is true is the fact they play different positions —J.J. is considered an interior defensive lineman while T.J. is classified as an edge rusher. Thinking T.J. Watt needs to play anywhere along the defensive front, including more towards the ball rather than off of the edge, is somewhat unrealistic. To think T.J. needs to have this versatility in order to compete with J.J. is a bit shortsighted. Can J.J. drop into coverage like T.J. has been asked to do? With only one regular-season interception in his nine years in the NFL, many would say otherwise. In 2019 alone, T.J. had as many interceptions as J.J. has had in his entire career. Including the playoffs, T.J. outscores his big brother in interceptions 3 to 2 in only one-third of the seasons.
When comparing the two players as pass rushers, it would be fair to say J.J. being able to play along the entire defensive front would be an advantage. But completely dismissing T.J.‘s ability to contribute to the defense in coverage actually takes away part of his versatility and the assets he brings to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As mentioned in the breakdown, the biggest asset T.J. Watt has over his brother J.J. at this point is time. With J.J. already suffering multiple injuries in his nine-year career, T.J. has the potential to continue to grow as he is only three seasons into the NFL. To compare the two players at this point isn’t exactly fair as J.J. has produced a larger body of work. But years down the road when both have moved on from the NFL, there is a very good chance that little brother will have a great case for having outplayed big bro during their respective careers.