Why the Steelers will be able to survive not landing J.J. Watt
By Austin Lloyd
Following the news of NFL veteran J.J. Watt signing with the Cardinals, Steelers fans should not be as disappointed as they may think.
Two years, 31 million dollars. That was the figure that caught J.J. Watt’s attention and subsequently concluded his allegedly “wild” battle with the free agency process, courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals. While this is certainly outstanding news for the Cards, who just fell a tad short of the playoffs last season, I find myself not really caring about what happens to them. I am more concerned about the poor souls of Pittsburgh who felt that J.J. ever had a true chance of landing on the Steelers roster somehow. Just looking at the contract he ended up signing off on implies validity towards my initial suspicion that the Steel City could not afford to have him anyway, especially long-term.
However, while there may be at least some egg on the faces of those who attempted to make that dream a reality, this news is not the end of the world for the citizens of Steeler Nation. Without J.J. tagging along, Pittsburgh nonetheless finished the 2020 regular season ranked third in the entire league in both total points allowed (312) and yards per game allowed (305.8). So regardless of whether the Steelers have two Watts on the defensive lineup or just one, they are clearly holding up quite nicely, especially considering that this same defensive unit faces the offenses of Cleveland and Baltimore each at least twice a year.
Even though I wanted to refrain from going down this road, it does have to be acknowledged that J.J. is no stranger to the concept of debilitating injury. When you are also approaching the…experienced age of 32, such factors are bound to raise some eyebrows. Many online spectators had been looking in on the free agency hype surrounding Watt and were trying to dismiss it all by declaring him as “washed.” In other words, they deemed J.J. as no longer being as impactful as the media chatter shaped him out to be; that he was officially past his prime.
In my opinion, there is a fine line between a player not performing at his or her best, and a player just being a complete and utter has-been. This line is impulsively and inaccurately crossed rather often by everyday critics, and J.J. Watt is no exception to the victimization. While I would say that J.J. has indeed left his best years in the league behind him, I would not go as far as to call him a waste of field space. Unfortunately, the latter may become more unanimous if injuries continue to plague him, which is certainly plausible at the state Watt finds himself in.
The situation makes me hopeful for the possibility that J.J. proves the haters wrong, as it would be a shame if the money Arizona is handing him is looked back on as nothing more than a poor purchase. The risk of such an outcome would have surely made the Steelers rethink the idea of snagging Watt, even if they were able to afford doing so.
Steelers fans who are truly let down by the news of not securing J.J. Watt need to remember the crucial fact that said news does not set the team back at all. It is not as if Pittsburgh had him and lost him, he was never there to begin with. If J.J. does turn out to be a giant waste of money for the Cardinals, we can sleep good at night knowing that a massive bullet was dodged. Besides, the Steelers have too little money to waste, and a defense that is already elite. So as far as Watts go, I firmly believe that T.J. will continue to be just enough for Pittsburgh’s pass-rush all on his own.