'More splash' to come from Steelers OLB T.J. Watt

  • By Grant Gordon NFL.com
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In the afterglow of a Pro Bowl season, T.J. Watt enters his third campaign with the Steelers looking to make a little more noise and quite likely settling into a leadership role.

"Early on, you just don't want to make a mistake," Watt said via Triblive.com. "And you get into Year 2, and you kind of take more chance. Then, in Year 3, you can try to take a lot more chances and try to make more splash."

Watt's second-season splash came in the form of a 13-sack showing.

Those 13 sacks led the Steelers, just as his 12 tackles for loss and 21 quarterback hits did.

But leading the way in stats and leading the way in the locker room are far different.

In the fast-forwarded world of the NFL, two seasons as a starter make you a veteran quickly and someone who can show teammates the right way to do things.

"It's just a gradual kind of feeling-out process of where you are in your [peer] group," said Watt, who recorded sacks in eight games of which Pittsburgh went 6-1-1. "You can't just wake up one day and say, 'I'm going to be a leader. I'm going to start talking.' I think it's over time. It's earning respect just being a hard worker and doing all the little things right. And you kind of feel out where you are. And if you want to start talking and guys start responding, you just kind of keep going with it."

A member of one of the NFL's most famed current families as the brother of the Texans' J.J. Watt and the Chargers' Derek Watt, T.J. will turn 25 in October -- smack dab in the middle of only his third season. Still, he's quickly become part of the Steelers family.

Admittedly, he's still new(ish) to the league, but wants to encourage younger Steelers to grow within the ranks just as he's been able to do.

"It's fun because I am still new to this," he said. "[Two] years ago, I was in a lot of the rookies' shoes, a lot of the free agent guys' shoes and stuff. Just being able to pass on any type of knowledge I can. I'm not going to hold anything in. I want to help continue to let guys grow."

Growing into his own, Watt is riding momentum into 2019 as he tallied sacks in each of his final three games of 2018.

If younger Steelers can follow Watt's lead, the Steelers might well return to the top of the AFC North and Super Bowl-contender status.