Why Steelers OLB TJ Watt deserves to be on the next Madden cover

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) T.J. Watt
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) T.J. Watt /

With the Madden 22 cover athlete set to be revealed on Thursday, we break down the chance of a particular Pittsburgh Steelers player being the one.

An evolution of gameplay that dates back 30 plus years, the one similarity found across the lineage of the Madden franchise is the voice, “EA Sports, It’s In the Game”. The voice is engrained in the minds of those familiar with the video game, even seeing the red logo, can make you repeat it. Or did you right there? In our best attempts to mimic the iconic phrase voiced by Andrew Anthony, we then can begin to analyze and debate over who will be the cover athlete.

Generally, attempting to guess who will be the latest player to grace the Madden cover equals the effort as contemplating if the Pittsburgh Steelers would draft RB Najee Harris if he were available at pick 24. However, panning through the Steelers roster there is one young star with the highest likelihood of making the cover, but how much of a chance does he have?

Steelers star OLB may want to not be on the cover

Yes, we are talking about Steelers OLB, TJ Watt. Watt, without a doubt, deserves to be on the Madden cover. An undeniable talent that has not allowed the Hall-of-Fame-sized shadow of his older brother, JJ Watt, to pressure his game into a shell, he’s in the echelon of being one of the best young, exciting players in the league.

Since 2000, only three defensive players have been selected, one being former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, then CB Richard Sherman, and LB Ray Lewis. Similar to the NFL MVP award, it tailors the offensive side of the ball and even defensive polarizing seasons like JJ Watt from 2014-2015 can’t break into the bracket voting portion of Madden.

Although, after seeing the latest commercial teaser by EA, which featured two live goats and former Madden 12 cover athlete Peyton Hillis, who spoke into a cellphone saying, “Hey, it’s Peyton, yeah, they did it again”. Speculating what was meant, what if they were to recreate 2010?

The only cover to ever have two athletes, one being Polamalu as mentioned earlier, and the other, Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, the scenario aligns perfectly. A homage to the greatest pass rusher of our era and his younger brother on a current legendary pace on each of their respective teams from 2010, the Watt brothers’ impact in the NFL could also span across three different decades barring any significant setbacks.

Albeit, there’s no immediate family relation in Polamalu and Fitzgerald but they did play on opposite sides of the ball, the quote by Hillis makes the recreation of Madden 2010’s cover an interesting theory that would surprise fans everywhere.

Perhaps, a non-selection works in Watt’s favor. As game companies run the pockets of their buyers, the price to pay for the athletes seems to be a bit more severe:

"More than 25 years into the iconic franchise’s history, there’s almost no escaping the Madden Curse. Since Garrison Hearst broke his ankle in 1998 shortly after starring on the cover of Madden NFL 99, most of the players who starred on the game’s cover have suffered an injury the following season. Of the 22 players who have been selected to grace the cover of Madden games through this season, 16 have had troubling or abruptly-shortened seasons following their cover debut — including several who suffered season-ending injuries shortly after their game hit shelves."

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Approaching the 2021 NFL season with championship ambitions, the Steelers may prefer that their defensive leader & 2x All-Pro OLB be on the field rather than on hard copies of plastic and digital screens across the nation.