Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt could have been an NFL tight end
By Tommy Jaggi
Pittsburgh Steelers star edge rusher, T.J. Watt, is talented enough to play offense in addition to defense. Here’s why he could have been an NFL tight end.
Steelers edge defender, T.J. Watt, is entering just his 3rd NFL season, but has already proved to be one of the most important players on the team. A good pass rusher is hard to come by, and after striking out on Jarvis Jones and (possibly) Bud Dupree, Pittsburgh found a star in Watt.
Though he was fantastic on the defensive side of the ball for the Steelers last season (13.0 sacks, 6 forced fumbles), Watt could have made his NFL living on the offensive side of the ball – specifically at the tight end position.
According to an article from Stack.com, Watt was a ‘highly touted tight end prospect’ prior to staying local and joining the Wisconsin Badgers. In high school, Watt was multi-dimensional star athlete – excelling at tight end, linebacker, quarterback, and punter.
In fact, the plan was for Watt to be a tight end at the collegiate level. However, after suffering patellar subluxation in both of his knees on two separate occasions , the future changed for T.J. Watt.
During the recovery process, Watt’s coach suggested that he switch to linebacker to help preserve his knees and his future NFL career. In 2015, Watt did exactly that. Eventually, he would go on to become a Pro Bowl outside linebacker for the Steelers.
Though it would obviously be a terrible decision to have him play both ways in the NFL (for the sake of his health), Watt could have made it in the NFL as a tight end – assuming he stayed healthy enough.
As a tight end, Watt would possess good size and terrific athleticism for the position. In fact, some of the most comparable tight ends from a size and athleticism standpoint are Noah Fant, Mike Gesicki, Dallas Goedert, and T.J. Hockenson, according to Mockdraftable.
James Wexell recently joked about Watt playing tight end in a recent video he captured during an OTA practice:
The Steelers are currently in a bad way at the tight end position outside of Vance McDonald. Xavier Grimble is a decent number three who will be forced into a much larger role, and the verdict is still out on whether or not rookie Zach Gentry could be a viable option at the position. Jesse James left the Steelers bare at tight end, and Vance McDonald has never played a 16-game season.
I’m certainly not advocating that the Steelers use T.J. Watt to help here, but it would be interesting to think of the contributions he could have made had he spent the last four years developing as a tight end. His size, athleticism, and motor, and work ethic, could have elevated him to one of the best in the league – much like it already has on the defensive side of the ball.
It obviously takes more than length and athleticism to be a good tight end. But something tells me that if Watt would have spent the last several years on the offensive side of the ball, he could have made a living in the NFL at the tight end position.
Landing Watt with the 30th overall pick in 2017 is turning out to be an absolute steal for Pittsburgh. Watt is on the fast track to stardom, and will be the cornerstone on the Steelers defense for years to come. Though Watt will never be an NFL tight end, it is interesting to think of what could have been.