Colbert On Watt: ‘No Reason’ He Can’t Be ‘Significant Player’

Prior to the start of the first round yesterday, I published an article about the potential for this year’s rookie draft class to contribute on the field in year one. While Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin has tried to avoid the perception that last year’s impact from the rookie class can be duplicated, I argued that there will still be opportunities.

And it seems that their first-round selection, T.J. Watt, is somebody whom they believe will be able to contribute as a rookie, even if they may not have directly gone out and said it. Tomlin seemed to deflect a question about his potential to succeed James Harrison, but there’s a high probability in my opinion that he is getting heavy rotation by the end of the season.

Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert were quite to deflect descriptions of Watt as raw, instead continually referring to his “one-year productivity” and his hand usage. “For a one-year linebacker, his ability to use his hands is advanced”, Colbert said.

“He beats people with his upper body just as much as with his lower body, and usually you don’t see that type of hand usage and know-how in a one-year player” the general manager went on to describe his latest acquisition. “That part was very attractive, and he’s a longer guy, so you put the hands and the feet and the length together, plus he’s pretty tenacious about it as well. It all worked for him last year and we just think it’ll work again”.

Tomlin added that his inexperience is “probably the most exciting element of the T.J. discussion. He’s worthy of the pick, but boy we’re excited about the potential upside and growth given the short length of time he’s played the position”.

I think the money quote here came from Colbert, though. When discussing his future if he can reach his full potential as a player with the infamous “upside” tag, he talked about “natural growth against better competition”.

Then he said this: “I think there’s no reason why he can’t contribute and be a significant player”, with the implication being in his rookie season. He provided the caveat that “he’ll be a young player”, but based on Bud Dupree’s role in his rookie season, I don’t think that will be an issue.

Comparing the two, mechanically, Dupree may have actually been the less refined and nuanced player in terms of being a pass-rusher, which Watt has been statistically more successful in doing in his brief time serving in that role while in college.

This is something that they talked about exploring during Jarvis Jones’ rookie season, but I think the addition of Watt once again opens up the discussion of developing a package in which the Steelers have three outside linebackers on the field. Watt is somebody who can rush from the middle as well, and his athleticism can be put to use while he is learning, and get those hands working.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Steelers12

    so does this take Derek Rivers off the table for us?

  • WreckIess

    I was just saying in an other article how I think he can grow into a chess piece kind of role once he settles in. Like how Green Bay used Clay Mathews. Between his comparisons to Clay and how Bud was compared to Collins it’s pretty easy to get excited over the future of our OLBs.

    Two movable pieces who can rush from anywhere on defense would be a terror for opposing offenses.

  • T3xassteelers

    If he’s on the board and all the DBs they like are gone, they very well could double dip early.. not a bad idea imo

  • Chong Ki

    TJ Watt Babeee!

    Won’t complain if PIT round out day2 with Rivers (Rd2), Zay Jones (Rd3) and Shaq Griffin (Comp).

    Cant have enough pass-rushers! Zay Jones, Wormley then Griffin, would also work for me 🙂 So anxious for day2! Here we go! Steelers!

  • Jason

    I’ll be the first to say I thought this kid slid into the 1st rd because of the “Watt” factor. I’ve spent this morning watching some Wisconsin games on youtube and I’m changing my tune.

  • Chong Ki

    Colbert said in his presscon that drafting an olb/de in day2 is not out of the realm of possibility.. More pass-rushers pls! 🙂

  • pittsburghjoe

    Double dip Rivers today? I don’t think they will, but have to ask. We have discussed the double dip.

  • Danielsteelstrong81

    Is he OLB OR ILB?

  • Steelers12

    I hope so

  • Steelers12

    I think rivers will be the top pass rusher from this draft

  • Craig M

    I hope they roll the dice and trade up to get OBI if at all possible. The opportunity of get someone like Polamalu, you just don’t pass up.

  • pittsburghjoe


  • pittsburghjoe

    The problem with Obi is that he is a project. The hybrid role is a tough one to get right because you need to do 2 things well.

  • TsarPepe

    Obi: combine warrior, with nowhere near as good on-field tape.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    I just wish they had the great Kevin Greene coaching him up, but they stuck with the liquored up hot head with limited coaching experience at the position. Big mistake.

  • JT

    You now have two guys in him and Shazier, that can line up anywhere along the defensive front. That’s a lot of flexibility.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    The fact that he can already dominate offensive lineman with brute strength and hand usage at his level of inexperience is very impressive. Once he bulks up his technique is refined he could be really good.

  • JT

    Kudos to you for being big enough to change your mind.

  • AndyR34

    He has been mentioned as an ILB in some systems

  • The thing is–and this is NO criticism of Watt or a suggestion I’m less than ecstatic with the pick or a suggestion he won’t be a perfect fit in Pittsburgh–but I wondered when I listened to the recording of Tomlin calling JT to announce the pick and welcome him whether JT was so quiet and seemingly unresponsive because of the quality of recording, or if he was still taken aback and likely surprised and depressed that Green Bay essentially pulled the rug from under his expectations by trading out of the previous pick. I mean…the whole [football] world seemed certain that GB was in ‘love’ with Watt, so JT can’t be blamed if he might have thought he’d be their pick. He may have got an immediate wake-up re the ‘business’ of football from his professional get-go. At any rate, he definitely didn’t have much time to recover from [possibly] being disappointed over not being a homegrown talent getting to play for his local team in front of family and friends before being expected to gush over being a Steeler.

  • Jeff Dudash

    FWIW, his tweet had nearly six exclamation points and came before the pick was announced. “Steelers!!!!!!!”

  • T3xassteelers

    He very well could!! And that’d be fine.. As long as we get him.. Otherwise I’d prefer Watt to be the best 😉

  • Xclewsive

    Why all the animosity towards Joey Porter? the Steelers are a loyal organization. Joey will get his chance with 2 1st round picks at his disposal, plus he got the most out of 37 yr old James Harrison, a bust in Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats and Anthony Chickillo there wasn’t much there to start the season.

  • Ed Smith

    Or as I have asked in some other posts on this site: Can Watt play ILB?
    Think of this line-up:
    Scary, VERY scary…

  • NCSteel

    Harrison got the most out of himself,
    you are correct
    on Jarvis but could a better coach have gotten more, we’ll never know.
    Not really enough improvement from Chickallo to speak of..
    Bud Dupree would be the best example and he seems to be naturally progressing, I don’t see any great new moves taught by Joey.
    I don’t want to bash Joey, great player back in his day,
    loved him but he has definetlely benefitted more from the teams loyalty to him than the team has benefitted from him as their coach. Ya gotta see that.

  • Xclewsive

    Chickillo was a converted DT and produced more than a a 1st round OLB. Believe me I’m not bragging about Chickillo’s growth as a player, but more what he contributed to the team. Joey Porter doesn’t have a ton of time during the season to hone or refine a players ability. Its the worth ethic of the player that determines that and the the reason James Harrison is still getting it done. TJ Watt and Bud Dupree have the work ethic required to at least give Joey Porter viable options at OLB moving forward. With Deebo on the roster for the next few years it’ll work wonders for the development of TJ. Jarvis biggest downfall I believe was there wasn’t a player on the roster (Woodley was finished) that he could learn from.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Foster’s shoulder seemed to be a bigger issue for teams than Watt’s knee. Supposedly some late news came in on Foster’s medical.

  • Shane Mitchell

    In my evaluation of Watt and the way they used him in their scheme at Wisconsin, his strong points led me to believe he could be an excellent ILB more so than outside. That said we still dont know what type of schemes we are going to run. if we run 3-4 with a lot of cover-2(we did towards the end of last season) I can see a good fit at the OLB position because running this scheme, you generally rush 4 and the 4th rusher is constantly switched up among your inside and outside LBs, and that OLB drops to play the ILBs assignment in coverage. Its a little nuance of running the scheme out of a 3-4 look instead of a 4-3, if this is the plan I can see the fit with Watt into the defense, it makes sense. As a pure pass rusher off the edge I dont know that I am as happy about the selection because there were better options available.

  • Jim Foles

    Your answer will be today.. if we draft a bigger olb your right on with watts as ilb

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    You’d really,like totally honestly, right hand on a bible,rather have Porter coaching the linebackers than Greene who has a proven record doing it at GB???. Glad you’re not running things.

  • Xclewsive

    Never said that but I’m not in charge thank god for that.