Left-Side Snaps Could Be Part Of The Plan For T.J. Watt

I don’t know about you, but one of the most interesting things that I took away from the debut performance of Pittsburgh Steelers rookie outside linebacker T.J. Watt was just how extensively he played on the left side of the defense. And it leads me to wonder what their plans are for him this season.

And how that will affect others as well.

Now, the long-term plan obviously seems to be for the first-round draft pick to take over for James Harrison as the blindside pass rusher on the right side of the defense. With the 39-year-old mostly in sweats so far, Watt has been given plenty of time to run there, as well.

But he spent seemingly the majority of Friday’s game coming off the left side, and this was not simply because the Steelers were shorthanded at outside linebacker for that game. The only others dressed and able to play were Arthur Moats and Farrington Huguenin, but Moats has extensive experience playing on both sides, and Huguenin also played on both sides.

It’s almost as though the Steelers are trying to get a long look at Watt coming off both sides of the defense, like that is their plan for this season. And heading into the game, I don’t think that anybody on the outside was really contemplating that.

Perhaps the rookie is simply forcing the Steelers’ hands because of his rapid acceleration and his strong physical conditioning. As long as he continues to perform, the team is going to have to get him snaps, and he may not be able to get as much as he demands rotating just with Harrison on the right side.

Bud Dupree is not going to play every snap, but many have assumed that he is going to play the vast majority of them, over 90 percent. Perhaps that is still the plan.

But maybe the plan is for Watt to get the leftovers, so that the Steelers are utilizing a three-man rotation at the outside linebacker position, rather than four. This would be bad news for Anthony Chickillo and Arthur Moats, or Keion Adams, depending on who makes the roster, as there will be nothing left for them.

This is an awful lot to read into one preseason game, however, so I will be very curious to get a glimpse at what Watt’s workload is going to look like over the course of the rest of the preseason, especially when Dupree gets back on the field, to see if he continues to take more than a random snap on the left side, or if it really was about short lines and just wanting to see what it would look like.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Nolrog

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see TJ and JH taking the majority of the snaps by mid-season. Dupree has got to show he can stay healthy and then maybe he can work into that as well.

  • Douglas Andrews

    If nothing else Watt playing both sides gives Coach Butler some pass rush options. Being able to move TJ around also gives the opposing Offense one more thing to prepare for on game day.

  • francesco

    I would like to see TJ line up in different positions for each game… like Matthews does for Green Bay.

  • NinjaMountie

    Which side do you think he looked better playing? I actually thought he looked better on the left PR. Though, it could have been the quality of competition he was facing by that time in the game.

  • Justin Warrenfeltz

    If Dupree stays healthy and can show that he’s improved his technique since last season, having TJ Watt and Dupree coming off the edge to rush the passer is going to be scary for opposing offenses. I’m not sure I buy that Dupree is there, though, and that’s disappointing given that it’s his third year. But I guess we’ll see.

  • capehouse

    I think Watt is already a better player than Dupree.

  • Big Joe

    I think it’s just that they’re getting him reps there. The more interchangeable they are in the OLB corps, the more reinforced they are against injuries. From the left side he was able to get pressure but I also noted that he got pushed upfield beyond the pocket a lot too. He also didn’t look comfortable there as his bend around the corner didn’t appear natural.

  • Lambert58

    Would be great if they rotated him. He will be the kind of guy that defenses will have to account for on every play. (at least it appears so)

  • Jason Vancil

    In pass rush situations why would you not move these 2 guys, Bud and Watt around? They are both freakish type athletes who are both long and strong at the point. Actually they both look to me like 4-3 ends, but thats another story. They both can cover well too, so I expect Butler to get creative on passing downs.

  • Rocksolid20

    Ha , one game and all of a sudden he’s a HOFer .

  • Rocksolid20

    Harrison still our best .

  • Michael Joseph Jackson

    ^This

    Dupree is the starter…

  • dany

    If Watt can make Moats’ and Chikillo’s limited skillset an “in case of two injuries” situation then fine by me. Harrison needs rest cause he’s old as f*** but Dupree, who’s potential is huge, will be even better with some rest in between. So keep forcing their hand Watt, this is just what they need

    And I bet we’ll see at least some snaps with all three of them on the field

  • Dshoff

    I wouldn’t mind WAtt and Dupree switching sides sometimes. I thought that Dupree looked like a better pass rusher from the right. No reason not to switch them at times.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yeah, it’s hard to fairly evaluate because he was playing against better competition while on the right. While attempting to adjust for quality of competition, endurance, and just getting a feel for the game, I feel like he played pretty close to equally well on both sides. At the very least he certainly looked comfortable on both sides.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Personally, I saw issues rushing from both sides. He got ‘stuck’ a lot in his rushes and needs to figure out how to get away from contact. Also slipped multiple times off both edges. Would like to see him keep his feet better next game.

  • Jim Foles

    Tomlin said tj could be the dl rover.

  • MC

    Was great seeing TJ line up at MLB on some plays. I think he will grow into a player that can man all LB positions in pinch if he needed to.

  • “WC”

    As in most cases it all begins in the trenches. Always has, always will. With hopefully a healthy/stud d-line with four good to great LB’s, that in itself will help the secondary play much better.

    The Steeler’s front office and coaches must ensure that they retain the best players on the roster. One slip up by not keeping a player or players on the squad by waiving him or attempting to stash him on the practice squad can be a risky move.

    Preseason games are an evaluation so to speak. However it also give other teams an opportunity to get players they coveted in the draft, but decided to go in another direction due to lack of draft choices, etc.

    I personally don’t envy the coaches all over the NFL as it relates to cut down day to 53.

    If some players end up on your practice squad, all you can do is hope they clear waivers, etc.

    Now don’t get me wrong, other teams must encounter the same risks.

    It’s the teams who are able to really employ a very calculated plan of option(s) that rise above everyone else.

    Just remember…….It all starts up front, on both sides of the ball.

  • Scunge

    It isn’t just Dupree TJ may take snaps away from, it might be Vince Williams too. Watt reminds me of Chad Brown in some ways, and Brown started off as a very good pass rushing ILB before he replaced Greg Lloyd at OLB for his last season in the ‘Burgh. I can see Butler/Tomlin getting creative and having Dupree and Harrison as the OLBs and replace Williams with Watt at ILB. You still can run your base defense but you have you 3 best pass rushers on the field, and Watt gives you a better option in coverage too. I can see them being real creative with Watt.

  • nutty32

    Could also be trying to get Dupree some rushes out of the non-TE side. Can’t believe people dogging on Dupree. He’s going to be our best defensive player in the very near future

  • jsteeler

    Wow, Are you a troll? Insanity.

  • capehouse

    I’m a troll because I have an opinion, oh and I guess you don’t agree with it? In one game I’ve seen better technique and hand usage from Watt than Dupree has showed in 2 years. You should check yourself, bro. You might just be the troll.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    I’m pretty sure I saw a play where Watt was on the left and Moats was on the right. Tomlin’s explanation didn’t seem real to me. I believe this is a new direction for sure.