Steelers’ TJ Watt discusses James Harrison’s record, injuries and Big Ben’s future

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Much has changed over the past few years for TJ Watt. After his rookie season with the Steelers, Watt remembers going unnoticed when walking through Pittsburgh with his older brother JJ Watt.

JJ was recognized by everyone apparently, as the young Steelers passer walked in anonymity.

“We are walking, and I see my jersey hanging from a [restaurant] wall, ”TJ said in a recent conversation with Bryant McFadden on the“ All Things Covered ”podcast. “My brother is getting noticed like crazy and no one tells me anything. He said to me, ‘I can’t believe that no one here in Pittsburgh recognizes you. It’s so wild for me. I was like, ‘I haven’t made my mark yet.’ It was after my rookie year. This stuff has definitely changed. ”

TJ admitted that this is no longer the case in Pittsburgh as he has become one of the big names for one of the NFL’s most popular franchises.

“It’s so cool to see how respectful people are of my time,” Watt said of his interactions with Steelers fans. “Nobody wants anything. They just want to say hello.… I have nothing but good things to say about the people of Pittsburgh.”

The 30th overall pick in the 2017 Draft, Watt quickly became one of the NFL’s top players. A professional player in the past four years and on two All-Pro occasions, Watt has recorded 67 sacks in 74 career regular-season games. In Pittsburgh’s victory over the Titans last Sunday, Watt broke James Harrison’s 13-year-old sack record in a single season.

“It’s a great accomplishment, but it’s a team accomplishment,” Watt said of his new franchise record. “Deebo was a phenomenal sleight of hand. Just to be able to be in this conversation in a franchise as historic as the Pittsburgh Steelers is really special.”

Watt, who called Harrison a “very good mentor” in their only season as teammates, described one of Harrison’s moves that allowed him to be an effective passer at 39.

“A lot of times he would line up outside the tackle, and as the ball was about to be broken, he almost hit his head in the tackle,” Watt recalls. “Looks like he’s going to go inside the tackle. So the tackle tries to blow him up, and as the tackle hits his chest, he just grabs that arm and rides around like a merry-go-round and throws the quarterback- back every time.

“I remember in Kansas City, we put him at the end of the game and he got fired to seal the game, and that was the move. We were all like, ‘He’s going to make the move, look at him. function. “Sure enough, one or two pass-rush reps, he had a bag.”

Watt attributes much of his success to his hands and film study of the opposing offensive linemen he will face this Sunday.

“I work so hard at manual combat all the offseason and try to get there that I don’t even think about it,” said Watt, who rose from the away linebacker halfway through. his college career in Wisconsin. “You have so much on your mind when rushing the passer, especially on the left side. You don’t have time to really look at the offensive linemen’s hands, so you have to make it second nature, and the only one. way to do this is to use muscle memory and repetitions. ”

Watt emphasized the importance of teamwork when it comes to reaching the quarterback. According to Watt, working in unison with your defensive line is essential for successful passing directing.

“Trying to use your inner pass, be it Tyson Alualu when he’s healthy, Chris Wormley, Cam Heyward if he comes by my side,” Watt said. “Working together so that it’s not one guy getting doubled and then maybe another guy being doubled if it’s a line slip.

“A great passing race is having the four guys up front working together.”

Watt is only five sacks away from equaling Michael Strahan’s single-season NFL sack record set in 2001. Watt is 17.5 sacks despite missing two games earlier in the year. What makes his success even more impressive is the fact that he is struggling with a persistent groin injury that has forced him to take stock of his physical condition.

“It always sucks that you’re not 100% in the games,” Watt said, “and just to have that in mind you warm up and you don’t feel 100%.… That was the challenge for me. – even., to be smart with my body and listen to my body and understand that it’s a long season, and I want to be here for the stretch race we’re in right now. ”

Watt said he used last year’s Defensive Player of the Year runner-up as motivation for this season. He found a healthy way to challenge himself without adding unnecessary pressure.

“Early in my career, I looked at these individual awards and set individual statistical goals,” Watt said. “The longer I’ve been here, the more I realize that you don’t need to put any more pressure on yourself.… Be healthy and put absolutely everything you have into game preparation and everything will be done. alone. Winning means everything, especially at the end of the season. We’re trying to push the playoffs, and the best way to help this team win games is to make plays, and that’s what I have to keep doing though. we want to get to where we want to be. “

Speaking of the added pressure, you’d think Watt and his teammates are trying to make sure Ben Roethlisberger is able to come out in a positive way if this is his final season with the Steelers. Watt, however, said there had been no discussion of Roethlisberger’s future inside the facility.

“It’s not something we talked about. I don’t even know if it’s true, to be honest with you,” Watt said of reports that Roethlisberger would probably play his last games for the Steelers. “These are all tie-breakers no matter what the situation.… We know how important he is to this team and have been for decades now. We just want to keep moving in the right direction here, and we feel better. with him as a quarterback, obviously, because he’s one of the best at it. “

While this may be his last season with Roethlisberger as a teammate, Watt will continue to be coached by Mike Tomlin, who is one win away from setting the NFL record for most. consecutive seasons without defeat to start a career.

“He’s so bossy,” Watt said of Tomlin, who earlier this year had 150 career wins. “When he walks into a room everyone is silent. HI, ‘Good evening.’ That deep voice, just very bossy. You want to go through a wall after every meeting, the same way it dictates the plan to the whole meeting room. “Here’s how we’re going to do it. These are the guys we need to attack etc. It’s like, man, this guy really knows what he’s doing. He believes in all of us, no matter what. Just a guy I love to play for.

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