TJ Watt named Starting OLB

TJ Watt was believed to have been a guy who was going to be seasoned to take James Harrison’s spot in the future. Someone who could sub in for Harrison on occasion to keep the 39 year old fresh. That theory went out the window on Monday when outside linebackers coach Joey Porter announced Watt would be the starter.

“We have two guys who are first-rounders, we drafted them for this,” Porter told Ed Bouchette of the Post Gazette. “Now you have to turn them loose and let them play.”

Harrison split time over the first half of the season last year with former first round pick Jarvis Jones. Jones was highly inefficient and finally relinquished the spot after his blown assignment on Ezekiel Elliot’s game winning touchdown run. The loss to Dallas capped off a four game losing streak. Jones became a free agent after the season and signed with Arizona.

It appears that Harrison will be strictly a back up to Watt. There won’t be any rotating. It’ll be Watt until he can’t go any longer. The same goes for the other side where Bud Dupree hopes to take the next step in his first full season as a starter.

Now it’ll be 48 [Dupree] and 90 [Watt], and they’ll just play until they’re tired. And when they get tired, somebody will come and relieve them. But it won’t be ‘This is your series and this is the next one’s series.’ We don’t have to do that.”

Porter noted that a rotation of linebackers has never been something that the Steelers do when things are running on full cylinders. There wasn’t any subbing out Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene, Porter and Jason Gildon, or Harrison and Lamarr Woodley.

A pushback on limited playing time from Harrison is expected.

“But his role is his role. He’s a relief pitcher,” Porter said. “Until we need you, the young guys are going to play. You’re a good safety net to have; if somebody’s not getting the job done, we happen to know we have a wily veteran that we can put into the game. But to be honest going in, we have two young first-rounders who shouldn’t be tired. And when they do get tired, we’ll make the adjustments we need to.

“I know the old guy wants to play but at the same time it’s hard to get in there if those guys are doing the job. If they’re doing their job and they’re playing at a high level, the understanding is understood. You don’t have to explain anything that you can see right there on tape.”

Watt played the entire game on Friday night against the Giants. He played om both sides of the defensive front because of several players not being available to play. Watt record 6 tackles, 2 sacks, and knocked a ball down at the line of scrimmage.

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