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2017 Steelers Rookie Review: How T.J. Watt is just getting started

Time to dig into the Steelers’ 2017 NFL Draft class and assess the good, the bad and the ugly.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

T.J. Watt had some outstanding performances this year but, at other times, he would completely disappear on the field.

The only player drafted after Watt who had more sacks than him was Cincinnati Bengals’ DE Carl Lawson. But he wasn’t a 3-down player, and was used primarily as a pass rusher. Watt was tasked to cover slot receivers, play inside linebacker, drop into zones, and rush the passer.

Watt missed a game and a half when he pulled his groin early in the season. He missed the game against the Chicago Bears, who rushed for 222-yards and a pair of touchdowns. We’ll never know whether, if Watt had played in the game, the defense would have been better, but Watt’s presence was missed.

Watt’s best game

Cleveland week 1. The first week of the season had Steelers Nation in a frenzy. Notching seven tackles, two sacks and a pick, Watt earned Defensive Rookie of the Week honors for his efforts. Watt was all over the field, and the hype train was speeding full steam ahead.

Watt’s worst game

Jacksonville in the divisional round of the AFC Playoffs. Call it nerves, but T.J. completely disappeared in his only playoff game. Usually when he didn't have great statistical games, he could at least be found around the ball carrier. This wasn’t a good game for the Steelers’ defense as a whole, but Watt looked especially lost.

Re-drafting the pick

The Steelers still draft Watt at 30. He’s been a solid pro, and all reports say he’s a great locker room guy.

Watt’s Ceiling

T.J.’s efforts were unmatched. He appears to be the guy who finally solves the Steelers’ OLB draft issues. If Watt could be more consistent, he very well might put up a 75-tackle, 10-sack +, multi-turnover stat line.

Watt’s Basement

More Hot-and-Cold play. I don't think Watt will ever be considered a bust—at worst, he could be an average pro, 5-sack-per-year linebacker. There isn't anything wrong with that, but if the Steelers want to win a Super Bowl, average wont be enough.


I'm excited to see what the kid will be able to do next year, with his rookie year officially under his belt. If he can sustain his top-end level of play, he could very well be a Pro Bowl player next year, and years to come. One thing’s for sure—after only one season, Watt already is a fan favorite in the Steel City.