Derek Watt Steelers

Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Derek Watt #44 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts with his teammates after stopping Jabrill Peppers of the New York Giants on September 14, 2020.

Last March the Pittsburgh Steelers signed fullback Derek Watt to a three-year, $9.75 million contract, making him one of the highest paid players at his position. This despite the fact that Watt had only 19 carries and 10 receptions during the four years he played for the Los Angeles Chargers—never a part of more than 15 percent of his team’s snaps on offense.

But during Watt’s first year in Pittsburgh, his offensive production literally went down to zero, as he recorded not a single carry or reception while playing just 52 snaps on offense.

Notably, after practice on Monday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin indicated that the team is exploring ways to use Watt more extensively this season.

The latest Steelers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Steelers newsletter here!

Join Heavy on Steelers!

Mike Tomlin: ‘We Intend to Potentially Use [the Fullback] More’

“I think we’re discovering that in this process,” said Tomlin. “We intend to potentially use that position more than we have in the past—or at least the recent past. The plays he makes and the skill set that he shows will dictate some of that discussion.”

Monday’s practice session was a case in point.

“Not only was he used extensively as a blocker in a goal-line drill, he was targeted on a wheel route during a team run session that resulted in a lengthy reception,” notes Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

In the meantime, Tomlin also attempted to justify the team’s arguably oversized investment in Watt by saying it already gets its money’s worth from him on special teams.

“I think when you’re talking about today’s fullback, it starts with special teams because you use a lot of different personnel groups,” elaborated Tomlin. “[Fullback’s] don’t play as much as they used to. That’s the hidden value of Derek Watt, and that’s what’s not talked about enough….. He’s our fullback and we utilize him and we can talk about whether we choose to throw him the ball or use him on lead blocks, but he’s a core component of our special teams.”

So while Tomlin may have been using the “hidden value of Derek Watt” in a special teams-oriented sense, one can argue that it applies just as well to a future where he is used more frequently as a runner and pass catcher. Heck, the Steelers could potentially unlock hidden value if Watt is simply able to play the overwhelming majority of special teams snaps this season.

Injuries Plagued Derek Watt in 2020

That’s because staying healthy was an ongoing challenge for Watt last season, when played in just 12 games and was limited to 47% of the team’s total special teams snaps.

For one, he suffered a grade 2 hamstring pull during a September game against the Houston Texans. He went on to re-injure his hamstring two weeks later vs. the Cleveland Browns. He also suffered a concussion while covering a punt against the Bengals in December, with the scary-looking collision occurring when he was pushed into the knee of Cincinnati punt returner Alex Erickson.

Regardless of how Watt ends up being utilized in the preseason and beyond, his spot on the roster effectively became guaranteed when the Steelers restructured his contract in March, creating $880,000 in salary cap space.

Per, Watt will earn a salary of $990,000 in 2021, while counting $3,926,667 against the cap. Next year he is scheduled to earn a base salary of $2.75 million while counting $4,713,334 against the cap.

Follow the Heavy on Steelers Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!

Also Read:
• Steelers Name Louis Lipps, 3 Other Former Players to the Hall of Honor Class of 2021

Source News