In preparation for the upcoming season, the Pittsburgh Steelers organization and coaching staff are getting ready to build a week-to-week game plan for each of their opponents in 2021. We can expect the Steelers to rely on their new and improved running game next season due to selecting running back Najee Harris with their first round pick. His talent goes without saying, although only on the college level, Harris’s resume playing in the SEC speaks for itself. Playing at arguably the highest level of college football and having success doing it, it makes it hard to say that Harris’ game won’t translate well into the NFL. What is still left in question with the rushing attack are how well we are going to be able to block for Harris.
How the offensive line ends up shaping out will all be determined within these next couple of months during OTA’s and training camp. There are at least two competitions that we foresee happening on both sides of the offensive line that will capture many people’s focus during the preseason. Although that particular unit will be the anchor for the new offensive group, for the running game in particular, there might be another name who can help create holes in the defense, allowing for Harris and company to work their magic in the open field.
Derek Watt is a name that we did not hear enough of last season. He was signed to a 3-year contract at the start of the 2020 season, taking over for the fan favorite Roosevelt Nix at the full back position. Although the fullback position is one that has been dwindling down around NFL organizations as the passing game becomes the more prominent option in NFL offenses, it is one that should still hold significant value. There is an obvious difference in the rushing game when the fullback is involved and tends to lean more in the positive direction than negative. Although, in most scenarios, having the fullback on the field takes away from having a 3rd or 4th receiving option on the field, the value of having that particular position is one that not many teams take advantage of. The Steelers are lucky enough to have a Watt waiting for his time to shine.
While with the now Los Angeles Chargers, Watt showed the ability to be used as a blocker in the rushing game leading the way for Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon for many years. Not only did he find success in that area, he also seemed to be a trustworthy option for Philip Rivers and the Chargers passing game when needed. You could see Watt flanking out to the left or right sides when Rivers was faced with pressure, allowing Rivers to get the ball to him quickly, gaining a few yards instead of losing many. I’m not saying that Watt should be the focal point of our offense by any stretch of the means, but he could be one of those guys who help create opportunities for our new rookie running back, which is exactly what this team wants.
The Steelers have made it a focal point of turning this running game around for not just this season but many to come. It’s clear that Harris will be the guy responsible for making this running game a success, and in my opinion, we have the perfect guy for the job. While focusing on the future is nice, in the NFL you have to take everything season by season, and the same could be said with this running game. Having Watt as our fullback can give this team an advantage if used properly. Even if just used in short yardage situations where our offense is in search of a first down, having that extra blocker for Harris to create separation will allow for this offensive group to potentially stay on the field longer, which usually ends up in us putting points on the scoreboard. Although we will see Watt on the field with the special teams unit, we could see him used more in our offensive game plan. Although he won’t be directly responsible for the potential success, he could be one of those guys that has a positive impact on the hopeful change.
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