T.J. Watt, Steelers reflect on 2018, looking ahead to 2019

A season that started with Super Bowl aspirations ended without a playoff appearance. Despite a 7-2-1 start to the season, the Steelers were unable to make the playoffs after losing four out of their last six games. Pittsburgh finished the season with a 9-6-1 record while losing the AFC North division title to the Baltimore Ravens by a half game. Despite the disappointing season, the Steelers’ players remain determined in their goal of bringing the city of Pittsburgh another championship in 2019. Below are reactions from T.J. Watt, JuJu Smith-Schuster and other Pittsburgh players after their 2018 season officially ended.

T.J. Watt expressed his appreciation for Steeler Nation after the Steelers’ 2018 season came to a close. The future is certainly bright for Watt, who recorded a team best 13.0 sacks during his season NFL season, the most by a Pittsburgh linebacker since LaMarr Woodley recorded 13.5 sacks back in 2009. JuJu Smith-Schuster had a season to remember in 2018. JuJu earned team MVP honors this season as he led the team with 111 catches for 1,426 yards while scoring seven touchdowns.

Despite not making the playoffs for the first time in five years, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said that he still believes that the Steelers, as currently constructed, as good enough to compete for a title in 2019.

Along with JuJu, T.J. Watt was Pittsburgh’s biggest Pro Bowl snub. The team’s 2017 No. 1 pick led the Steelers with 13.0 sacks this season, the most by a Pittsburgh player since James Harrison recorded a franchise record 16.0 sacks a decade earlier.

Fifth round pick Jaylen Samuels had a strong finish to his rookie season after getting barely any playing time during the first half of the 2018 campaign. Samuels, N.C. State’s career leader with 201 receptions, averaged 4.6 yards per carry this season. He also caught three touchdown passes.

After being injured for most of his rookie season, Cam Sutton bounced back to have a solid 2018 campaign. Sutton, who started in just one game this season, will look to compete for a starting job alongside fellow cornerback Joe Haden in 2019.

Mike Hilton completed his second full season for the season in 2018. This year, Hilton, signed by the Steelers in December of 2016, recorded 56 tackles to go with two fumble recoveries and eight passes defensed.

Mason Rudolph posted the following message on social media the morning after Pittsburgh was eliminated from postseason contention. Rudolph, the 76th overall pick in the draft, did not play in a regular season game during the 2018 season.

Pittsburgh receiver Eli Rogers spent most of 2018 rehabbing from a serious knee injury sustained during Pittsburgh’s 2017 playoff loss to Jacksonville. He returned in Week 15 and caught 12 of 14 targets for 79 yards in the team’s final three games. Pittsburgh outside Bud Dupree explained what he thinks went wrong in 2018. Dupree, Pittsburgh’s No. 1 pick in 2015, was tied for fourth on the team with 5.5 sacks this season.

Cam Heyward was asked about Bill Cowher’s comments about the Steelers being “too complacent” after a 7-2-1 start to the season. Cowher coached the Steelers from 1992-06.

Steelers LB T.J. Watt named to Pro Bowl as injury replacement

Houston Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney has pulled out of the Pro Bowl with an injury. His replacement is none other than Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt.

Watt had a huge second season in the NFL. He finished with 68 total tackles, 13 sacks and forced six fumbles. He also chipped in eight passes defended and an interception.

Pittsburgh drafted Watt in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft and he was an immediate impact player. He probably should have made the Pro Bowl from the beginning but this is still a nice honor for the young linebacker.

T.J. Watt said he was shocked after Steelers fired Joey Porter

T.J. Watt didn’t hide his reaction when asked about the Steelers’ decision not to renew Joey Porter’s contract earlier this month. Watt, who said that Porter was a “great asset” to his development, was asked about the team’s decision to move on from Porter as their outside linebackers coach following Thursday’s Pro Bowl practice from Orlando. The team has yet to find Porter’s replacement.

“It took me by shock, yeah,” Watt said via Mark Kaboly of The Athletic. “I’m not going to lie. But I stand with the upper-hand at the facility and just have to go with it.”

The 41-year-old Porter began his coaching career with the Steelers in 2014, serving as a defensive assistant under then Pittsburgh defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau. The following season, Porter was promoted to outside linebackers’ coach, a position he held through the 2018 season. During that time, Porter worked with several first round draft picks that include Jarvis Jones (2013), Bud Dupree (2015) and Watt (2017). Jones did not have his contract renewed by the team following the 2016 after a disappointing run with the team. Dupree, who is entering his final year under contact with the Steelers, has been a solid yet unspectacular player during his four seasons in Pittsburgh. He recorded 5.5 sacks in 2018 and has 20.0 sacks during his time in Pittsburgh. Watt, who has become one of the best young pass rushers in football, led the Steelers with 13.0 sacks last season. He has 20.0 sacks during his first two NFL seasons.

The 73rd overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, Porter was the emotional leader of Pittsburgh’s defense throughout his eight seasons with the team. A three time Pro Bowler and one time All-Pro selection during his playing years with the Steelers, Porter played a intricate role in Pittsburgh’s run to a Super Bowl title during the 2005 season. Porter recorded 60.0 sacks to go with 17 forced fumbles, 10 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries during his time with the Steelers.

After not receiving a new contract following the 2006 season, Porter signed as a free agent with the Miami Dolphins. In 2008, Porter earned All-Pro honors for the second time his his career after recording 17.5 sacks while helping the Dolphins capture the AFC East division title. After three seasons in Miami, Porter spent his final two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. He retired after the 2011 season with 98.0 careers sacks, 25 forced fumbles, 12 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries.

Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said during his season-ending press conference that the Steelers would make changes following this offseason after his team missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and for just the fourth time in Tomlin’s dozen years as Pittsburgh’s head coach. The Steelers finished the 2018 season with a 9-6-1 record after losing four out of their final six regular season games.

T.J. Watt returns to the field against Broncos after being evaluated for a wrist injury in the 2nd quarter

With the Pittsburgh Steelers struggling to get going against the Denver Broncos after a blocked field goal and a fumble through the endzone, they may now be forced to play the rest of the game without linebacker T.J. Watt.

UPDATE: Watt has returned to the field after a quick evaluation by the medical staff following the Pittsburgh’s successful scoring drive that ended with a field goal to make the score 3-3.

#Steelers LB TJ Watt sustained a wrist injury and has been taken to the locker room for further evaluation. His return is questionable to today’s game.
— Burt Lauten (@SteelersPRBurt) November 25, 2018

The Steelers’ leader in sacks was forced from the field early in the second quarter after seemingly taking a blow to his right wrist. Last seen jogging to the locker room to be evaluated, the team’s PR staff were surprisingly quick to update his status and he is officially questionable to return to the game.

As more news becomes available, we will be sure to update this post.

T.J. Watt (right wrist) returns after brief exit

T.J. Watt has returned to Sunday’s game against the Broncos after being ruled as questionable to return after sustaining a right wrist injury during the first half. Watt exited towards the locker room during the opening minutes of the second quarter between the Steelers and Broncos. The Steelers trailed 3-0 at the time of Watt’s departure.

Watt, Pittsburgh’s No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, leads the Steelers with 10.0 sacks this season. He was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week after recording 3.0 sacks and a blocked field goal in Pittsburgh’s Week 1 tie against the Browns. He has 17.0 sacks in his first two seasons with the Steelers and is the first linebacker since James Harrison in 2010 to reach double digit sack totals in a single season.

The Steelers and Broncos were tied at 3-3 with six minutes remaining in the second quarter of Sunday’s game.

TJ Watt Fined $20,054 for Hitting Matt Ryan’s Leg; Brother JJ Questions Decision

Pittsburgh Steelers pass-rusher T.J. Watt has been fined $20,054 by the NFL for “forcibly hitting in the knee area or below” while attempting to sack Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Watt’s older brother, Houston Texans superstar J.J. Watt, was incredulous upon hearing of the news:

J.J. Watt also tweeted “That is insanity” in response to Schefter’s report about his brother’s fine.

During just about every NFL game at this point is a controversial roughing the passer call, with the NFL’s new emphasis on protecting quarterbacks and banning defensive players from driving quarterbacks into the ground on sack attempts or landing on them with their full weight.

“I think they just sometimes lack common sense,” Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said of the rules earlier in the week, per Mark Maske of the Washington Post. “I get it. We want to protect quarterbacks, and I completely understand that. They’re the lifeblood to our game. But it’s really hard to do your job, and it’s having an effect on some games.”

“A lot of guys are coming in… to try to hit the quarterback, and we’re second-guessing ourselves,” Eagles defensive end Chris Long added. “We don’t know where to hit him or if we should hit him in certain situations. So it’s going to be tough. I guess we’ve got to adapt.”

In T.J. Watt’s case, hitting a quarterback around the knees has been illegal for some time now. But J.J. Watt’s surprise at the fine—and T.J. Watt’s surprise at even being penalized—came from the fact that he appeared to make an effort to pull away from the contact and didn’t bring Ryan to the ground.

“I understand the rules. I’m not a dirty player,” Watt said after the game, per ESPN.com. “I tried to pull off him at the end. Whether the ref saw it or not, I understand why they call it. It was a low hit. But I tried to pull my arms off. … It puts us in a bind because I don’t know what else I can do.”

Watt has been proficient at getting after quarterbacks this season and is tied for the NFL lead in sacks with six, to go along with 28 tackles and a forced fumble. His attempt on Ryan was an expensive one, however.

T.J. Watt on Matt Ryan: ‘I can’t blame him for playing the game’

If Matt Ryan was embellishing, T.J. Watt doesn’t blame him.

The Steelers outside linebacker got flagged for a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty midway through the second quarter of Pittsburgh’s 41-17 win against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday after briefly touching Ryan’s leg. Atlanta would go on to cut the Steelers’ lead to 13-10 on the drive and Watt would earn AFC defensive player of the week honors for his three-sack performance.

Though Watt said he does not know what is and isn’t a penalty anymore in the league in which he plays, Ryan falling to the ground and gesturing toward him made sense to the pass rusher.

“If I was him, I would. Why not? Fifteen yards helps your team a lot. If I’m a quarterback I’m gonna sell it too,” Watt said. “So I can’t blame him for playing the game.”

Mike Tomlin criticized NFL officiating after the game, said on Tuesday he didn’t expect to be fined and on Wednesday was fined, according to USA Today.

Watt did not know Tomlin was fined until a reporter told him as much on Wednesday after practice, but he did note the head coach was simply filling his particular role.
James Harrison coaches up T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers OLBs

“Ah, he’s doing his job,” Tomlin said. “And it’s not my job to complain about the refs because my opinion means absolutely nothing and I go out and control what I can control.”