PITTSBURGH—It was a long wait for the Steelers on opening night of the NFL Draft, as they picked at number 30. Head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert feel their first round pick, 6-4, 252 linebacker T.J. Watt from Wisconsin, was worth the wait.
“It’s always excited to get that first pick. We’ve had our eyes on him since early fall. After their season, coach [Paul] Chryst asked us to give an idea on what his draft value may be before he decides to [enter the NFL Draft],” Colbert said. “He’s a solid football player who’s only scratching the surface. He’s a converted tight end. It was remarkable one-year production. We expect natural growth.”
Watt feels he is a good fit for the Steelers’ defense.
“I’m ecstatic to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. I knew schematically [Pittsburgh] was a great fit for me. I was intrigued by them. I had a gut feeling come draft night it was a good match,” Watt said. “When the Packers traded back, I thought it was a good chance I would go to the Steelers. I know Coach Chryst spent a good deal of time [in Pittsburgh] when he was at Pitt.
He arrives at Pittsburgh with a chip on his shoulder as he tries to get out from under his brother’s shadow. Watt is the younger brother of Houston linebacker J.J. Watt and Chargers fullback Derek Watt. After his junior year at Wisconsin, where he earned second team all-American honors and first team all-Big Ten honors with 63 tackles, including 15.5 tackles-for-loss and 11.5 sacks, he chose to enter the NFL draft.
“Everybody knows me as J.J. Watt’s younger brother. I don’t think people really know who I am at this point. I can’t wait to get to Pittsburgh and be my own person,” Watt said. “I feel like I’m truly scratching the surface. I’ve watched James Harrison for years growing up. I can’t wait to get in that locker room.”
Head coach Mike Tomlin is also looking forward to start tutoring Watt and feels he has all the qualities to make a good football player.
“T.J. is a rock solid young man. He doesn’t have a lot of experience at the position but has a lot of upside. He’s a quality guy. He’s worthy of the pick and we’re excited about the upside of his growth.,” Tomlin said. “I think he gains a benefit from his brothers being in the NFL. His outlook and mentality was beyond a new player.”
Even though he is relatively new to the linebacker position, Tomlin thinks he is advanced for his age.
“He can come off the edge, cover people, and come off a rover front similar to what we do here,” Tomlin said. “I wouldn’t necessarily characterize his play as being raw. His inexperience was not evident in is tape.”
Watt was only a one year starter as he redshirted his freshman season (2014). He saw limited action his sophomore season when he appeared in all 13 games and had eight tackles and three pass break-ups. He switched from tight end to linebacker in the spring entering his sophomore year. He will arrive in Pittsburgh over the weekend to start making arrangements in his new city.