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TJ Watt: All-Pro Linebacker and Emerging Star of the Pittsburgh Steelers

TJ Watt
Full Name: TJ Watt
Birthday: October 11, 1994 (age 28)
Hometown: Pewaukee, Wisconsin
College: University of Wisconsin
Draft Year: 2017 – Round 1, Pick 30
NFL Team: Pittsburgh Steelers (2017-present)
Position: Outside Linebacker
Social Media: Twitter, Instagram

TJ Watt has quickly established himself as one of the NFL‘s most dominant defenders since entering the league in 2017. The outside linebacker‘s combination of explosive athleticism, high motor, and playmaking instincts have made him a force for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Let‘s take a closer look at the emergence of this Wisconsin native into an All-Pro talent.

From Small Town Star to Big-Time NFL Prospect

Watt grew up in Pewaukee, Wisconsin along with older brothers JJ and Derek. At Pewaukee High School, Watt starred as a multisport athlete earning all-state honors in football, basketball, and baseball. Despite the accolades, he drew little interest from college programs and decided to walk-on at the University of Wisconsin.

After redshirting his first year, Watt switched from tight end to linebacker and immediately flourished. Over his final two seasons, he tallied a remarkable 27 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks. His dominating play earned back-to-back second-team All-American honors.

Watt‘s meteoric rise from walk-on to top NFL prospect was complete when the Steelers selected him 30th overall in 2017. For a player that was lightly recruited out of high school, it was a remarkable journey fueled by hard work and determination.

Taking the NFL by Storm

Watt made an immediate impact as a rookie in 2017, playing 15 games and recording 7 sacks along with 1 interception. He helped transform the Steelers‘ defense and earned PFWA All-Rookie Team honors.

Somehow Watt managed to take his game to another level in 2018. He started all 16 games and racked up 13 sacks and 6 forced fumbles. His dominant season earned Watt his first Pro Bowl selection and first-team All-Pro honors—rare achievements for a second-year player.

The 2019 season saw Watt cement his status as one of the NFL‘s most disruptive defenders. Playing virtually every snap, he totaled 14.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions, and was named second-team All-Pro.

Just three seasons into his career, Watt had already established himself as a dynamic game-wrecker and one of the league‘s brightest young stars.

A Playmaker Who Lives in the Backfield

One of the trademarks of TJ Watt‘s game is his uncanny penchant for big plays. In particular, he has a knack for strip sacking quarterbacks and forcing fumbles.

His 25 forced fumbles through three seasons is an incredible accomplishment. Watt times his contact perfectly when sacking QBs, punching the ball out with force. Two of his most memorable plays demonstrate this skill:

  • In 2019, Watt sacked Philip Rivers and forced a fumble that teammate Cameron Heyward returned for a TD against the Chargers.
  • In 2020, Watt stripped Lamar Jackson two yards short of the endzone to halt a Ravens scoring threat.

Additionally, Watt seems to constantly find himself in the opponent‘s backfield, whether crashing down against the run or pressuring the QB.

In a 2020 game against the Texans, Watt lived in the backfield tallying 2 sacks, 3 QB hits, and 2 tackles for loss. His ability to knife through gaps and win off the edge makes him an absolute menace for offenses.

The Epitome of Work Ethic and Motivation

Watt‘s exceptional motor never stops on the field, but arguably his biggest asset is his work ethic off it. He brings an unmatched level of intensity and professionalism to continually refine his skills.

Throughout the offseason, Watt displays an obsessive commitment to perfecting his pass rush approach and getting stronger. During the season, he sets the tone with his relentless energy and effort at practices.

Watt never takes plays off and is always sprinting in pursuit, even when initially beat on a play. His boundless determination motivates teammates and sets a standard of accountability.

Simply put, few players in the NFL can match Watt‘s drive and will to be great. He embodies many of the qualities that define successful people in any endeavor: passion, persistence, and an insatiable work ethic. These intangibles lift Watt from great player to future legend.

The Emerging Leader of an Elite Defense

Despite being just 25 years old, Watt has already emerged as a leader for one of the NFL‘s top defenses. The respect he garners can be seen in the way defensive coordinator Keith Butler deploys him in different roles to maximize his versatility and big-play ability.

Watt‘s presence makes everyone around him better. His persistent pressure makes life easier for the secondary in coverage. And his energy and effort motivate fellow defenders to match his intensity.

After losing veterans like Shazier and Haden recently, the Steelers defense needed a new tone-setter and Watt has emphatically filled that role.

On a franchise with a long lineage of elite linebackers, Watt is the next great one. He has a chance to follow in the footsteps of all-time Steelers greats like Jack Lambert, Greg Lloyd, Joey Porter and James Harrison over the coming decade.

The Best is Yet to Come

As Watt enters his fourth NFL campaign in 2020, expectations will be sky-high after his meteoric start. But all signs point to even bigger things on the horizon.

With his relentless drive and growth mindset, Watt seems capable of joining the NFL‘s truly elite tier of defenders occupied by names like Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack. He has the talent and work ethic to threaten NFL records for sacks and turnovers over his career.

If Watt can remain healthy and focused, he has a real shot at going down as one of the greatest defenders ever to don the black and gold. For Steelers fans, watching his prime over the next 5-10 years will be a treat. Offenses are going to have their hands full game-planning to slow down number 90.

At just 25 years old, the scary truth is that TJ Watt‘s best football may still lie ahead of him. For a player of his caliber, the possibilities are limitless. One thing is certain: this Wisconsin local has entrenched himself as a foundational player for the Steelers and as one must-see defensive superstar.