Haley Says Terrell Watson Is Carving Out Role As Short-Yardage Back

Terrell Watson, the definition of an afterthought as training camp began, now sees the ball on some of the game’s most critical plays. “Nightmare,” as he’s been dubbed by Mike Tomlin, has been used as the third-and-short back this season. He’s been perfect. Three third down carries. Three first downs.

His first chance came against the Chicago Bears, diving forward to convert a 3rd and 1 in the red zone. He did similar a week later against Baltimore and converted yet again in last week’s win over Kansas City. There’s nothing graceful about it. See yard. Get yard. Watson’s “demeanor,” as Tomlin has always pointed out, is no-nonsense. At 240 pounds, he embodies what it means to be a downhill runner, throwing his weight forward at the end of each run.

Speaking with reporters yesterday, Todd Haley says he’s been impressed.

“Nightmare has done a good job,” he said via the team website. “He’s done a good job so far. He’s a big guy that we liked in the preseason. Consistently got yards. He’s trying to carve out a role for himself.”

If anything, his role is more defined than that of James Conner, who has seen a couple more snaps, but have been more haphazard. Haley said Conner’s main focus has been on special teams; on the year, he has 14 rushes for 69 yards.

Watson hasn’t embarrassed himself on special teams either and is blowing out Conner in snaps on football’s third unit. 87 for Watson, 21 for Conner. Conner’s work has primarily come on kick returns, used as part of the wedge, while Watson has been used as a returner there, too, in addition to the punt block team.

It’s tough to justify Le’Veon Bell ever coming off the field. And the snap percentages show that. Bell leads the position league-wide with 89% of the snaps. But Watson fits the bill for the situation. Big, bruising, and fresh off the bench. The Steelers tried it with DeAngelo Williams in the past to more limited success. Watson’s chances may be limited. But the success is clear.

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.

  • John Noh

    How about more of Watson around the goal line? Either he scores or he’ll make a terrific decoy for play action with the D crashing in on him.

  • Jones

    I like Watson, but isn’t the sample size so far a bit small to be talking about “clear success”? If he’s done this a dozen times and converted 80+% of the time by the end of the season, I think there will be no denying his role, but for now, we’ll have to see how consistent he can be. So far so good.

  • Alex Kozora

    Both are true. Limited work but he’s gotten the job done everytime. That’s not to say he’ll keep up that pace (he won’t), but he’s done all asked of him through the first six weeks.

  • Lambert58

    Love it! He always seems to fall forward and get something.

  • francesco

    What does this even mean?
    2 snaps per game?
    Why not use him for a couple of series and let Bell rest?

  • Lambert58

    It means he’s the best guy to get 2 tough yards. I like Conner as the thunder to Bell’s lighting but Watson has been money on short yardage.

  • Dshoff

    Watson REALLY impressed in the preseason. I wouldn’t even mind if he got some regular carries.

  • steelmann58

    IT be nice to see him at the goalline

  • Steve

    Each back has his Niche, with Bell the starter, Conner the fast one and Watson the Bruser. This will come into play as the season goes on. Steelers need to keep running till stopped and sprinkle in some passes.

  • Rick McClelland

    They shouldn’t even abandon the run when stopped. Usually the Steelers are riding one pony for the game with Bell. When that pony can’t get yardage on runs, switch out the pony and get a whole new running style and look. That’s how to soften up an opposing defense so that those passes really do work.