Film Room: A Little Bit Of Everything From T.J. Watt

It should come as no surprise that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie first-round draft pick, outside linebacker T.J. Watt, received quite a bit of attention for his debut performance in the preseason opener against the Giants last week.

That would have happened no matter how he performed. He was a first-round pick, after all, and at an attention-getting position. With the amount of snaps he played, no matter what he did, it would have been newsworthy.

But fortunately, he did well, and yet the two sacks that he recorded were not all that remarkable. They merely showed that he will be a player who knows how to take advantage of opportunities when given them. Which is a good thing, but it only tells us so much about is abilities. So I wanted to take a look at some other plays.

Take the Giants’ third-down play in the red zone at the start of the second quarter, for example. New York was facing a third and 12. Watt was lined up on the left side, and did an excellent job of dipping under the outside shoulder of the right tackle to get pressure. He finished up the play with a quarterback hit. While his opponent here was an undrafted rookie, the move was good.

Later in the game, in the third quarter, still working from the left side, the rookie did well not to bite on play action, pressuring the quarterback to get the play off quickly. He did bite on a play-action bootleg earlier in the game, so he showed that he can adjust.

Five minutes into the fourth quarter, the Giants left Watt unblocked, and he showed impressive closing speed to get pressure on the deep-dropping quarterback. The outside linebacker had excellent timing elevating to bat the ball down.

About midway through the quarter, on the final play of the drive, Watt came off the edge against the run on a fourth and two play. He could not finish the play—Mike Hilton did—and obviously you want to see that, but he did get a piece of the runner. Next time he needs to close harder and finish.

Toward the end of the game, the Steelers were in their 4-3 over front, a play I wanted to get a look at from the rookie. The most relevant example unfortunately came so late in the game, but with Watt basically serving as the strongside linebacker, he and JaCorey Shepherd finished off a tackle for six yards on a short reception on second and 10.

I wanted to show Watt in this game doing different things, and I think I did that. His understanding of assignments is pretty advanced for a rookie especially one fairly new to his position, but there is still plenty of polishing left to do in his game. Still, it’s hard not to be pleased with his start. The Steelers certainly are.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • falconsaftey43

    He looked really good in a lot of instances. He did bite on those play action roll outs a couple times, but then adjusted and showed really good COD to follow the back until the last second and then pursue the QB and pressure the throw.

  • WreckIess

    That first play is what they want out of the defense in a nutshell. You can’t see the corners, but they played their coverage assignments perfectly and as we can see they were getting a tremendous amount of pressure from their OLBs. That’s exactly what we need more of. 4 man rush with a lot of pressure and great coverage behind it.

  • Very encouraged by what he put on tape thus far. Keep it up TJ!!!

  • Mark

    TJ’s preseason game looked better than any game that Jarvis Jones ever played in. I realize he had 2 gimme sacks but at least he made them.

    I still hate our zone coverage of covering an area instead of sticking to a covering a man in your area. What sense does it make to have 3 defenders zoning 1 WR and and 2 defenders zoning 3 or 4 WR.

  • RickM

    Definitely a very encouraging performance. Great instincts and ball sense. If anyone can develop some moves to beat stronger tackles, it’ll be him.

  • Ace

    So glad they have leaned towards athletes with untapped potential. His closing speed is second to none. That 3rd gif is a perfect example.

  • Alan Tman

    The play that impressed me was the sack on the play action fake. He’s a rookie and didn’t bite. Arthur Moats was frozen or fooled on play action, but not Watt. The guy has great instincts. Best defensive draft pick since #43!!!

  • CP72

    Whoa….Cam Heyward and Ryan Shazier would beg to differ.

  • NCSteel

    Stay healthy and continue to improve.

  • That’s not how zones really work by the way…

  • Bill

    Loved Watt’s performance, especially the nuclear engine. This guy simply never stops. I noticed he was usually lined up wide probably by design. I would like to see some inside moves and more use of his hands. I believe his apparent desire to excel coupled with his physical attributes will result in something great. But of course, only time and snaps will reveal whether or not that actually happens. Maybe we’ll get a more realistic look in game # 3.

  • Alan Tman

    Right now they can, but very soon it will be obvious.

  • DirtDawg1964

    I like how quickly he changed direction on the play action. Took a shallow path to the runner but made a very quick adjustment towards the QB. Great recognition and reaction.

    Also love how he’s being given different looks already. Highly unusual for a rookie. Tells you something about his mental game. I think he has a chance to be something special.

  • StillersInThe6

    Don’t follow college ball, and this is a TINY sample size, but I’m a little lost at how a kid with this motor, athleticism, and bloodline, falls that far in the draft.

  • barry foster

    One year of tape, 2 injuries and just converting to defense from playing tight end. I’m sure glad the steelers picked him though.

  • barry foster

    That means the steelers have been hitting on their 1st rd picks and that’s a great thing.

  • barry foster

    Can we toss bud Dupree in there ? He’s no Jarvis jones

  • AndyR34

    Think Shazier needs to be available to differ

  • barry foster

    Guess that applies to Dupree too.

  • Ken Krampert

    He looks and plays alot like Kevin Greene. It is way to early to expect hall of fame production , but his movement and aggression are very similar. Now he only needs to change to 91 from 90….

  • Ken Krampert

    I agree. Everyone is saying it was a “gimme” sack, but i disgree with that. Lots of guys bite on that as the QB rolls out of reach, but he closed and finished. We havent had that for some time now….

  • nutty32

    They’re both white wearing 90s numbers but what else do you think they have in common?

  • 43 is a future HoFer and saying Watt will be as good after a single preseaon game is a bit premature to say the least. I like what Watt has done thus far but he’s still got a ton of growing to do.

  • nutty32

    Even when he’s not “making the play” he looked good holding up the schemes and angles giving teammates a chance to do their jobs. TJ was impressive, alright.

  • Alan Tman

    Where did I say that? I said he was our best defensive draft pick since #43, so that statement is really talking more about everyone after Troy.

  • Boots

    I almost didn’t comment on this one because I’m not sure how I feel about his game. I agree with a lot of your assessment on what you showed, but part of me was a little concerned that guys Moats was beating pretty consistently seemed to lock him up better than I thought they should. I don’t know if I’m being too critical for his first preseason game, or if perhaps I missed something…its preseason I wasn’t exactly glued to every play. I saw some good things, I just don’t know if I expected too much or not.

  • Joseph Shaw

    Ditto…and I’m a huge fan. He got gobbled up a lot.

  • barry foster

    he made plays ,I liked what I seen from tj especially in coverage and his motor never stopped.

  • You are right you didn’t compare him to 43, but to say he’s the best defensive draft pick since him is still premature, he could suffer injury after injury, or get suspended for off field issues. Look I’m not saying any of that will happen or not but the kid played a single preseason game, we should still temper expectations a bit.

  • Alan Tman

    Sure can!!

  • Alan Tman

    My fault. I should have said I believe by the end of his career he will show that he was the best defensive draft pick since #43. How’s that sir?

  • falconsaftey43

    Absolutely he had plays where the tackle stoned him. It’s going to happen. He is a rookie in his first game and hasn’t been playing the position long, a guy like Moats should look better than him from a consistency stand point. Important thing is you see the flashes of talent at this point, which he showed. You hope you see little improvements each week.

    The thing I liked most out of his entire game was that early on he flowed too hard to the RB on those play action roll outs and he wasn’t able to pressure the QB, then he adjusted and was able to get after the QB on those plays. LOVED seeing him recognize what he was doing wrong and fix it within a game. That speaks volumes about his football IQ and his ability to improve.

  • Boots

    This is why I’m legitimately conflicted. I agree with everything you said. He did some really good things. I’m just concerned that a guy that’s being counted on to provide a boost to the pass rush this season wasn’t having more success against guys that are likely getting cut. Now if he comes out in the next couple games and shows some improvement in that area I’m sure I’ll feel better, but until then I’m somewhat concerned.

  • Boots

    Hopefully he comes out and shows improvement in that area against Atl.

  • Let’s hope so! Let’s also hope the Steelers can find a way to pay him if he becomes that good.