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TJ Watt Celebrates


The Steelers Lucked Out When The Dallas Cowboys Made A Horrible Decision in 2017

Jordan Schofield

The Steelers Lucked Out When The Dallas Cowboys Made A Horrible Decision in 2017

The 2022 NFL Draft in progress, many teams are hoping to land the league’s next big superstar. The Pittsburgh Steelers are no different. Offensively, many are looking to draft the next Patrick Mahomes, while defensively the search is on for finding the next TJ Watt. Speaking of Watt, it’s been five years since the Steelers selected him. Today, we look back on the selection, and how it changed the team’s history.


Steelers TJ Watt

Photo / JSKO_PHOTO (Twitter)

In the 2017 draft, the Steelers had the 30th overall pick. Picking two spots before them were the Dallas Cowboys at 28th. Dallas was looking to bolster their defense and began weighing their options between Watt and University of Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Cowboys Vice President of Player Personnel Will McClay, as well as then Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli, pushed for Charlton over Watt based on how they believed each player would hold up in their defensive scheme. At the time, the Cowboys favored Charlton’s length and value as a run defender. They felt that he would fit in their 4-3 defense better than Watt, even though they considered Watt to be the better talent. With Dallas selecting Charlton, and the Cleveland Browns on the clock at 29, Watt was still in play for Pittsburgh. Cleveland had already addressed the defense by selecting Myles Garrett with the number one pick, so they had no reason to draft Watt. This allowed the Steelers to draft him at number 30.

Steelers Select QB Kenny Pickett

Charlton’s rookie year with Dallas was marked by a lack of snaps. Playing time was limited because of Demarcus Lawrence’s high level of play earning him 14.5 sacks. In addition, there was Benson Mayowa, the team’s 2016 sack leader, and edge rushers Tyrone Crawford and David Irving taking snaps away from Charlton. This resulted in Charlton never starting but playing 399 snaps his first season with three sacks. In his second year Charlton did not impress. He only played two more snaps and had only one sack. Coaches were not eager to use him in the lineup. By year three the Cowboys were looking to trade Charlton for some extra draft resources. Although the team did not find a trade partner, Charlton was let go to make room for Robert Quinn. After his release, Charlton bounced around the league, playing for teams such as the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs, before he too became a Steeler in 2021. He lasted one season in Pittsburgh before signing with the New Orleans Saints in free agency. In the end, Dallas admitted that drafting Charlton was a mistake and that they should have drafted Watt.

TJ Watt Celebrates

Photo – JSKO_PHOTO (Twitter)

TJ Watt’s rookie season could not be more different than Charlton’s. First off, Watt was a starter for Pittsburgh. In his first regular season game of 2017 against the Cleveland Browns, Watt earned seven combined tackles, two sacks and one interception. Watt finished his rookie season with 54 combined tackles, seven sacks and an interception. The strength of the Steelers team was evident in their record of 13-3 which earned them a playoff berth. Despite the 45-42 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Watt managed to have two combined tackles and a deflected pass. In his second year Watt was voted AFC Defensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career. By the end of his third season Watt had entrenched himself as one of the finest pass rushers in the NFL. He had a league high eight forced fumbles and was voted Team MVP by his teammates. In 2020 and 2021, Watt continued to dominate on defense, winning multiple AFC Defensive Player of the Month awards, and winning the ultimate defensive prize, the Defensive Player of the Year for 2021. His performances also helped the Steelers make the post season in both years.

By comparison Watt’s first five years have been outstanding whereas Charlton’s first five years have not been as successful. Dallas’s passing on Watt was the biggest gift the Cowboys have given to the city of Pittsburgh and the Steelers organization. Hopefully Watt’s on field success will continue for many years to come.


What was your reaction in 2017 when the Steelers drafted Watt? Be sure to let us know down below in the comments section.


Name: Matt Tristan Hometown: Binghamton NY Birthday: 08/10/1994 Played football in high school and college (St. John Fisher College - Division 3) Majored in Communication/Journalism Minor in Sports Management Steelers fan forever

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