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Porter: T.J. Watt is starter, Harrison a 'relief pitcher'

It's happening again.

Back in 2011, teams at the top of the draft undervalued J.J. Watt, allowing the three-time Defensive Player of the Year to slide to the Texans with the No. 11 pick. If early signs are any indication, a similar misevaluation occurred with younger brother T.J. Watt, the Steelers' choice at the back end of this year's first round.

Making his preseason debut Friday, Pittsburgh's newest pass rusher was a fixture in the Giants' backfield, recording two sacks, another quarterback hit and a trademark Watt pass deflection.

Although Watt went unblocked on the second sack, linebackers coach Joey Porter takes exception to the notion that it was an easy play.

"That sack was just a good, instinctive, open-field play," Porter said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "A lot of people can miss that. His change of direction is better than what people think. They don't know he's a great athlete in space."

Watt's performance was impressive enough to nail down the starting job opposite 2015 first-round pick, Bud Dupree. In fact, Porter expects the two young linebackers to play "until they're tired," relegating 39-year-old James Harrison to a "relief pitcher" or "safety net" role.

"We have two guys who are first-rounders, we drafted them for this," Porter offered, per Bouchette. "Now you have to turn them loose and let them play."

Porter went on to compare the current situation to memorable bookend tandems such as the younger version of Harrison and LaMarr Woodley or even the duo of Jason Gildon and Porter himself.

"Now we finally have that," Porter continued. "So we're not going to stunt their growth and pull them out when they're not doing anything wrong. We're going to let them play."

Watt's sterling showing was hardly a surprise to defensive coordinator Keith Butler. The former Wisconsin star makes so few mistakes in practice, Butler said, that coach Mike Tomlin has taken to calling him a "one-play guy."

"Because he learns after one play," Butler explained. "He usually doesn't make the same mistake twice. Usually good football players learn from their mistakes and don't repeat them."

After visiting Steelers camp earlier this month, NFL Network analyst Ike Taylor attested that Watt is a "unique rookie" who doesn't carry himself like a rookie.

"So what did his brother J.J. tell him to do? Go in, say nothing, kick butt," Taylor relayed on Tuesday's edition of NFL Total Access. "That's exactly what T.J. Watt has been doing since the day he stepped in there. He's the real deal since the day he stepped on the field."

The stingy Steelers defenses of last decade were built on great linebacker corps. After whiffing on 2013 first-rounder Jarvis Jones and watching Jason Worilds surprisingly walk away from football, the organization has stacked the deck in the past four draft classes featuring Ryan Shazier, Dupree and now Watt.

If Watt's rookie season is half as disruptive as his preseason debut suggests, Tomlin will boast a title-caliber defense to match his high-octane offense.

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