Film Room: T.J. Watt Shows IQ, Athleticism On INT


We all saw what T.J. Watt can do getting after the quarterback. That’s what he was drafted for and expected to do. But to play on the edge in Pittsburgh, your game has to be much more well-rounded than that. Steelers’ outside linebackers are the lynchpin of the defense and asked to wear every hat. That includes dropping into coverage somewhere between 20-25% of the time. Watt showed those traits too, recording the first interception of his career. And in impressive fashion.

What I want to look at today is his pick but also compare it to Anthony Chickillo doing the same thing. Watt did it better and was rewarded for it.

First, Chick. Unfortunately, I don’t have the All-22 look to show you guys because the new NFL Game Pass is a tire fire. We do have the broadcast view which will show us well enough.

Two receivers to Chick’s side. He bails from his OLB spot at the last second, lining up with outside leverage on #2. Does well to funnel #2 inside and once he knows #2 is going vertical, has his curl/flat responsibility.


Needs to sink and get depth/width to anticipate any sideline throw to #1. Common concepts could be hoss (curl/seam) or smash (curl/corner). But he doesn’t get enough width until it’s too late and DeShone Kizer hits Corey Coleman on a comeback route for a 13 yard gain.

Now let’s look at Watt later in the game. Same thing. Slot set, Watt shifts to cover #2 and funnel him inside. I think he could’ve done a slightly better job with his pre-snap alignment, shading #2 outside instead of playing head-up but he gets width off the ball to reroute the receiver inside to his safety help.

With no threat underneath, Watt gets width and depth and gets his eyes on Kizer. Now, I think Kizer makes a worse throw here than before, it’s entirely too low, but if Watt had settled like Chickillo did, he’s probably got no shot to make the play.

Instead, his technique allows his athleticism to take over, making a spectacular leaping INT and returning it for a modest gain.

Great combination of football IQ and athleticism taking over. And a heck of a debut for the rookie.

About the Author

Alex Kozora
Full-time blogger from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • srdan

    wasnt teh greatest read for kizer, but if he is going to throw it there, he had to thread the needle adn throw short, because the corner had the WR covered. And yes, that was a heck of an athletic play. Freakish athletes make throwing windows smaller. Putting this on tape will make QBs consider how to throw over our LBs. Because Shazier is known to make those picks as well.

  • NinjaMountie

    I wonder if Burns would have intercepted that had Watt not made the play?

  • This is why zone defenses are great, defenders dropping with their eyes on the QB prepared when the ball comes their way. In man, defenders usually have their backs to the QB and don’t know the ball is coming until it gets there.

    Don’t get me wrong, I want to see more press bail and man coverages, but the zone defense shouldn’t be completely abandoned either. It is ideal to be able to mix it up.

  • Steve Johnson

    Great read and reaction from Watt, that was one heck of an interception too. I haven’t seen the front 7 put that kind of pressure (consistently) on the QB since 2010.

  • RickM

    It was a great play by T.J., but he made me worry like crazy coming down on one leg like that. Shades of Heyward last year with with his one-leg landing.

  • Talyn Scarbrough

    Moats had one in the preseason as well. Granted that was up against 2nd and 3rd stringers but still happened.

  • Scott Thomas

    I think it would have been short. But if he actually threw the ball to the receiver, I think Burns has a long pick 6

  • hdogg48

    I wonder if at some point this season given that everybody is
    healthy we’ll see an 8 man front with 3 DBs back…..

    I could see Deebo and Chickillo lined up on the
    outside and either rush or set the edge.
    Also lined up in front would be Watt, Dupree, Shazier, Tuitt,
    Heyward, and Hargrave.

    When the opposing QB sees this look he will wonder if
    Watt, Shazier, or Dupree will be rushing the passer or with their
    speed and athleticism dropping into coverage.
    Also who would the OL choose to double?

    Then I can envision Artie on one side on an island covering
    one on one the other side’s deep threat. On the other side
    have Haden covering the next best split wide threat with
    help by one safety….either Davis or Mitchell or with
    practice using the speed and athleticism of Allen as a hybrid
    safety CB/S providing coverage support to either side
    to prevent the deep ball.

    I think this formation could provide good push on the pass
    rush, adequate run support with the best chance of
    covering the TEs and slot receivers over the middle
    that have been killing us on third down….FOREVER!!!

  • Alex Kozora

    Agreed. Well said.

  • If this was package was in the playbook, I imagine it would only be used againsts offenses in 22 (2 RBs,2 TEs, 1WR) or 12 (1 RB, 2 TEs, 2 WRs) packages. A good QB would target the safety with double seam routes on either side making him choose which to cover. Or even worse, 4 vertical routes putting the offense in favor with 4 vs 3 deep.

  • nutty32

    yeah, the coverages & pressures do look different.

  • nutty32

    This looks like a win for Butler. Hue went with only a 2 man pattern, perhaps anticipating blitz for mass protect? Rookie w/o vision got burned….he should have pulled it down and ran?

  • Bryan Ischo

    I guess I don’t see the difference. If it’s a comeback route and Kizer throws the ball correctly, the same result would have happened on Watt’s play as Chickillo’s.

  • barry foster

    Hey Alex what was the percentage of the defense in regular base 3-4 fronts ,nickel, dime and etc ?

  • Alex Kozora

    Nah, Chick definitely didn’t get the width and depth like Watt did. Chick actually had another chance later in the game and looked much better. Took it away.

  • Ben

    Kizer gets the ball out of his hand on the 1st play not allowing Chickillo to get width or depth. Haden bails on the route and is at least 8 yards off the receiver which allowed Kizer to release on time. On the play that Watt got his pick Kizer holds the ball for a full second more missing the seam route receiver with an outside throw in the area of the rear pylon and Burns is in the receivers pocket that Kizer is trying to throw to. This caused Kizer’s hesitation.