clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Does the signing of Derek Watt signal the return of the fullback in Pittsburgh?

New, comments

Teams that used their fullbacks more often in 2019 typically won more games

Los Angeles Chargers v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

When the Pittsburgh Steelers originally decided to bring in the middle Watt brother, Derek Watt, I thought it was a clever way to add a special teams ace, starting fullback, and appease All-Pro linebacker T.J. Watt all in one move. But when Derek’s cap hit rolled in at just over $2 million, the third highest paid fullback in the league, my expectations changed.

When football analyst Warren Sharp broke down the hidden value of the modern fullback, I combined my lofty goals for Derek with the successfulness of teams that used fullbacks at the highest rate, and I've come up with some interesting predictions.

First, I want to single out each of the top three most used fullbacks in the league last year and what kind of production they brought to their respected clubs.

Kyle Juszczyk, 49ers

Unarguably, Juszczyk is the best fullback in football today and Kyle Shanahan is the absolute best coach for him. ‘Juice’ is used as an extra tight end, running back, and traditional fullback which creates a ton of misdirection and mismatches. This is the blueprint on how the Steelers should use Watt.

Juszczyk Stats:
12 Games
20 Receptions
239 Receiving yards
3 Carries
7 Rushing yarsds
1 Touchdown

49ers Rushing total: 2,305

C.J. Ham, Vikings

A converted running back, Ham inked the second-richest fullback deal this past summer. He’s proven to be a weapon catching the football, and is a solid lead blocker for Dalvin Cook.

16 Games
17 Receptions
149 Receiving yards
7 Carries
17 Rushing yarsds
1 Touchdown

Vikings Rushing total: 2,133

Patrick Ricard, Ravens

Ricard is the bruising fullback on the list; a throwback-type player that mauls the opposition. He’s not a good comparable to Derek and the more modern style he plays, but he’s one of the NFL’s best.

16 Games
8 Receptions
47 Receiving yards
1 Touchdown

Ravens Rushing total: 3,296

Derek Watt, 2019 Chargers

The Chargers never got the best out of Watt as he averaged less then a touch per game throughout his Charger career. He was mainly relied upon as a special teamer which is great, but he needs to be used more in Pittsburgh to truly get the value of the player.

16 Games
3 Receptions
32 Receiving yards
7 Carries
10 Rushing yarsds
1 Touchdown

Chargers Rushing total: 1,453

So what does all this mean for the Steelers usage of Derek Watt? Well, I'll tell you how I would use him. First, he needs to receive a ton of reps and should beat least in the top ten of snaps played by a fullback. Second, he needs to average at least a touch per game, and at least attempt to give him the ball twice per game. Lastly, let him lead block the way they let Rosie Nix block, but with more frequency. In my perfect world, a 2020 Derek Watt stat line would look something like this:

16 Games
24 Receptions
265 Receiving yards
8 Carries
18 Rushing yarsds
1-2 Touchdowns

I would utilize Watt on some back side wheel routes, much like how the 49ers use Juszczyk. Watt would also see some targets in the screen game. All in all, the fullback position needs more targets and Derek Watt can spearhead that motion here in Pittsburgh.

What do you think? Should the Steelers involve Derek Watt more in the passing game? Is the fullback position seeing a revival in the NFL? Let us know down in the comments below.