Derek Watt will wear multiple hats for Steelers in 2020
The Steelers made Derek Watt one of the highest-paid fullbacks in the league this offseason. Here’s why he will wear multiple hats for Pittsburgh in 2020.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers handed out a three-year contract worth $9.75 million this year to a fullback, it made us a little bit sick to our stomachs. However, the fact that it was for a Watt somehow makes it better.
Let’s be clear: Derek Watt is not like his brothers. Both J.J. Watt and T.J. Watt tested as remarkable athletes coming out of Wisconson, but Derek tested just above average. In addition, fullback is clearly a dying position in the NFL, and it’s a role that can often be filled by a backup ‘move’ tight end.
Regardless the Steelers have high hopes for Derek Watt. Though he will never be a player that teams are forced to gameplan around like T.J., Derek could certainly earn his money with this team. Recently, Mike Tomlin spoke to the media regarding his newly-acquired fullback. Here’s what he had to say, according to Bob Flounders of Penn Live:
"“The known aspect of his game that was really attractive to us was his high-level of productivity on special teams. I think he and Tyler [Matakevich] led the NFL in special teams tackles a year ago. And because we had an opportunity to play against (the Chargers) last year, we also were very respectful of his functional fullback skills. But some of the off-the-beaten-path things, some of the additional things, we are going to learn about him along the way.”"
Watt spent the last four seasons paving the way on the ground for two-time Pro Bowl running back, Melvin Gordon, as well as Austin Ekeler. Though he’s garnered just 19 carries so far in his NFL career, Watt has proven to be a road-grading blocker in the run game, and he was a large part of Gordon’s success that allowed him to rush for 5.1 yards carry in 2018.
However, lining up in front of the running back on offense is hardly his only use. In fact, playing special teams is his best attribute. Pittsburgh lost their standout special teams player this offseason in Tyler Matakevich, but Watt should prove to be a perfect replacement. Remarkably, Watt is a slightly cheaper option than Matakeivch as well.
What really makes this signing remarkable, however, is that the Steelers were able to kill two birds with one stone. Not only will Watt be the replacement for Matakevich’s special teams coverage, but he will also be the replacement on offense to Roosevelt Nix – essentially allowing Pittsburgh to save a spot on their roster for another position.
Despite all that sounds promising, it’s important not to have too high of expectations for Derek Watt. After all, fullbacks for the Steelers play an incredibly low percentage of offensive snaps and are primarily asked to do their jobs on special teams. However, it’s nice having another Watt around, and there have been rumors that locking up Derek may be able to keep T.J. in Pittsburgh for a bit of a team-friendly deal.
Though $3.25 million per year seems like a lot for a player who won’t touch the ball much, having a player that can help pave running lanes on the ground who is also a reliable special teams player should prove to be money well spent.