To say that the Steelers offense last season was highly predictable would be an insult to unimaginative offenses everywhere. The Steelers didn't even bother trying to disguise their intentions. Bring in the heavy package because it was short yardage and the Steelers were bound and determined to run it for a first down. When that failed repeatedly, the Steelers decided they would try to throw the ball to a seldom used component of the aforementioned heavy package who happened to be tackle eligible, with disastrous results.
No worries, the Steelers had other tricks up their proverbial sleeves. How about bringing in another seldom used weapon, one rarely utilized in the base offense, which just so happened to be a diminutive but fast rookie running back. Why not try to throw the ball deep to said running back on 4th and 1 in a pressure packed, season defining moment? Please excuse my sarcasm, but I feel certain you understand my frustration.
These are only a few examples of inexplicable, mind-numbing play calling by the Steelers last season, but there was one particular development that took the cake for yours truly. The Steelers went out and signed TJ Watt's lesser known brother Derek Watt to a free agent contract, then completely forgot that he was even on the roster. Derek was supposed to bring versatility to the fullback position on offense and exceptional experience to the special teams units. He was as advertised on special teams, but beyond invisible on offense.
Just how invisible you may ask pray tell? Based solely on the limited evidence at my disposal from Watt's time spent on the field with Ben Roethlisberger last season, it was apparent that Derek Watt was basically unrecognizable to Roethlisberger; almost to the point that the two men needed to be formally introduced as teammates at some point early in the season. It was so bad actually that I couldn't find a single good picture of the two men together to use with this article. Makes sense seeing how Ben never handed the ball off to Derek Watt a single time during the regular season.
There were multiple occasions where Derek Watt would leak out of the backfield on a route and be wide open, but Roethlisberger never once even looked his way. This unexplainable phenomenon reached it's apex during the Steelers midseason victory over the Jaguars in Jacksonville. Late in the first half, Roethlisberger inexplicably overlooked a wide open Watt for what would have been a sure first down in the red zone, instead choosing to force the ball into the end zone for what turned out to be a interception if memory serves.
The fullback position has never been utilized much during Ben Roethlisberger's career behind center, even prior to Mike Tomlin's tenure as Head Coach. Regardless of the offensive coordinator, the fullback has been utilized as a lead blocker, if at all. That needs to change this season in Pittsburgh, if the Steelers are going to show marked improvement in their running game by fully implementing Matt Canada's offensive creativity.
Nobody is suggesting that Derek Watt needs to become an integral part of the Steelers offense, or that he needs a predetermined number of touches each game. The main objective is that Derek Watt has relevancy in the Steelers offense. Last season the Steelers were far too often playing 10 vs 11 whenever Derek Watt was on the field. He was never used as an offensive weapon, therefore he was an afterthought for opposing defenses. That's like fighting with one hand tied behind your back, and that has to change moving forward.
This season defensive coordinators must be forced to account for Derek Watt and game plan accordingly. He is more than capable of making an impact, besides leading Najee Harris into the hole. He is a moderate threat running the ball in the interior, solid in pass protection, and a reliable receiver with soft hands when called upon.
He appears to have every ability necessary to be a impactful fullback. Based on the frequency with which he found himself wide open last season, I am lead to believe that invisibility is one of Watt's underrated abilities. That is a great ability to have obviously, just not when it comes to your franchise starting QB. Maybe some reflective tape would do the trick.