Friday, April 19, 2024
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JJ Watt ‘loves’ Steelers’ offseason moves, names Pittsburgh’s most underrated free agent signing

JJ Watt doesn’t like what the Pittsburgh Steelers have done this offseason. He loves it. 

Watt, a future Hall of Fame pass rusher, current CBS NFL analyst and older brother of Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, recently lauded the bold moves made by general manager Omar Khan and the rest of Pittsburgh’s staff. 

“I love it,” Watt said during an one-on-one interview with CBS Sports. “They know they have an opportunity in Pittsburgh. They know that they need to make some moves to try to take that last step to make that jump.

“Basically, what they’re saying to their fan base is, ‘We’re going all in to try and win. We want to win a Super Bowl. That’s what we do here.’ I think they’ve seen the narratives about no losing seasons but not making it past that first round of the playoffs. They’re signifying to their fans, alright, we’re going to go ahead and do it.” 

The Steelers are certainly going for it. They gutted their quarterback room and replenished it with Russell Wilson and Justin Fields, spending less than $4.5 million this season for both players. Those moves have rightfully garnered a lot of attention, but Watt doesn’t want people to sleep on the Steelers’ signing of former Ravens Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Queen. 

“Brining in Queen at linebacker, I think that was a really underrated signing that people aren’t talking about as much,” Watt said. “I think that’s huge for their defense. You put those playmakers at every level with Minkah, Queen, T.J., Cam, Highsmith. They’re really building something there with Joey Porter as well.” 

Queen is no doubt a talented player. But the Steelers had considerable success last year with less heralded players (Cole Holcomb, Kwon Alexander and Elandon Roberts) manning the middle of the defense before injuries decimated the group.

Given that trio’s success in 2023, does it make sense to give a lucrative deal to a middle linebacker? Watt thinks so. 

“I look at the championship games from last year,” he said. “I see Fred WarnerDre GreenlawPatrick QueenRoquan Smith. Teams that are great in this league, they’ve got some damn good middle linebackers. I need some of those guys if I want to win. 

“I also see a lot of good tight ends: George KittleTravis KelceSam LaPorta. In this league, you’ve got to have a quarterback that can do it, and you’ve got to be about to keep guys out of the end zone.” 

Going back to the quarterback moves, Watt feels that getting Wilson still has some good football left in him. He feels similarly about Fields, who like Pickett was jettisoned from the team that only a few years earlier made him a first-round pick. 

“You might have found a guy for the future,” Watt said of Fields, who in 2022 recorded the second-highest single-season rushing total for a quarterback in NFL history. “I think it’s smart business what they’re doing, especially in a league where it’s tough to find a quarterback and it’s the most important position.”

Speaking of quarterbacks, Watt said that he sympathizes with Pickett, who drew some criticism after he asked for a trade after reportedly being told by the Steelers that Wilson was coming to Pittsburgh as the team’s QB1. Pickett was ultimately shipped to Philadelphia, where he will backup Jalen Hurts

“I’m sure he is frustrated,” Watt said of Pickett. “I’m sure he feels like he never got the full proper opportunity to show (his potential) and develop, which is a thing that’s happening in this league. We are not giving guys time to develop, grow and fight through adversity and come out the other side, because it’s such a win-now world that we live in.

“So, I don’t blame him at all for wanting an opportunity to compete somewhere or go somewhere and try something new. When you bring in a guy and say he’s automatically the starter and you don’t even get a chance, I get it. I completely understand his side. But at the same time, I don’t blame the Steelers at all. When an opportunity presents itself like that, a minimum contract for a guy that’s won a Super Bowl, you’ve got to take it.” 

Anyone who follows the Steelers knows that this is not a typical offseason for the black and gold. Watt agrees with the notion that Pittsburgh’s aggressiveness is at least partly due to wanting to maximize the remaining years of their core players, most notably Heyward, T.J. Watt and Fitzpatrick. 

“I don’t think that’s lost on the situation,” Watt said. “I think the fact that this group, together, not being past the first round of the playoffs, I think everybody realizes that that is underachieving. To me, and if I’m a Steelers fan, I’m looking at it and I’m saying, OK, Omar and them, they’re going all-in. They’re saying, alright, let’s do this. Let’s make a run, let’s see what we can do with this group. 

“Who knows how it’s going to work out. I don’t (know), but I’m looking forward to watching.” 

Watt recently took part in Miller Light’s iconic Great Taste, Less Filling campaign by starring in several throwback commercials. Watt is part of a new generation of sports stars who are bringing back a debate that dats back to 1975. 

“To be able to star in one of these commercial campaigns is very special to me,” Watt said. “Some of my favorite memories are sitting around the campfire with Miller Light and my best friends, just sharing stories and making memories. To be able to be able to team up with Miller Light and making new memories is really cool.”

All the ads are cool, but I’m particularly a big fan of the one below that includes a reference to “Back to the Future,” an a classic ’80s movie. 

Along with Watt, actor Luke Wilson, former baseball stars David Ortiz and Jorge Posada, NBA legend Reggie Miller and longtime soccer star Mia Hamm also took part in Miller Light’s legendary campaign. 

“We had so much fun on set,” Watt said. “Whenever you put that many personalities, legendary athletes in a room together, it’s really cool to be able to share stories and just converse with each other, because you have so much common ground but you also have so many questions you want to ask because we’re still fans at the end of the day and I have so much respect for everybody there.”

Watt embraced the throwback element of the commercials; he wore an all-denim outfit, which was very much in style during the ’80s, when Miller Light’s Great Taste, Less Filling first appeared on TV screens across the country. 

How did Watt’s wife, Kealia, feel about Watt’s wardrobe for the commercial? 

“She’s alright with it,” Watt said with a smile. “I had a mustache and some sideburns on, too. She wasn’t as big of a fan, but I thought it looked great. I think the mustache and sideburns should definitely be a part of my wardrobe, but I’ll have to see if I can get it past the big boss, first.”

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