You saw the meme, right?
"Did we just become teammates?"
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 26, 2020
That's T.J. Watt and Derek Watt, now teammates with the Steelers after the team inked the latter to a three-year deal in free agency, represented as Step Brothers in a show of appreciation for the brotherly love on its way to Pittsburgh.
Speaking on a conference call Thursday, Derek confirmed the excitement of getting to play with his brother T.J. at the professional level. After the deal was completed, Derek's first call went to his wife and their 13-month-old son, Logan. The second call went to T.J.
"If he [T.J] somehow botches this and doesn’t come out on top as ‘favorite uncle,’ that is 100 percent on him, because he will for sure have more access and more opportunities to be around Logan and spoil him as much as he can," Derek was saying. "If somehow he doesn’t come out on top as favorite uncle, that’s something he did wrong and he’s gotta live with that.”
The "favorite uncle" competition is, of course, between T.J. and the Watt family's third brother, Texans star J.J. Watt. And yeah, that rivalry aside, J.J. is feeling a little jealous about all this.
“J.J. [the oldest of the three at 31], you know, he’s very happy for us because we get this opportunity, and he’s always kind of said he’s envious that T.J. and I, we’ve had the chance to play together in high school, college and now the NFL," Derek said. "He knows how special that really is. He never had that opportunity. I kept missing him by a year, and obviously now we’re not on the same team."
Oh, how Steeler Nation has recognized that final point there from Derek, so much that they've begun actively courting J.J. to the Steel City:
— Blitzburgh (@SteelBlitzburgh) March 25, 2020
It's not just fans, either. Former Steelers began recruiting the moment news broke that Derek was headed East to suit up in the black and gold:
😂 Probably not....
A title shot with your brothers however....🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆👀 https://t.co/CjbUlKi4xL
— Brett Keisel (@bkeisel99) March 17, 2020
Fun as the storyline sounds, the Steelers are up against the salary cap once again, and adding a megastar like J.J. is likely not in the cards without some form of literal magic or witchcraft from Kevin Colbert and company. Derek's gotta admit, though: It sounds pretty appealing to bring the trio together.
"He’s [J.J. is] extremely happy for us, and very, like I said, he’s jealous of the fact we get to play together, but he’s super supportive," Derek said. "We’re all supportive of each other … I definitely have seen Steeler Nation on Twitter, Instagram, all that stuff, as you say, courting J.J. and trying to bring the three of us, the trilogy, all together. That would be something special.
"I know I’m not the big sexy signing that J.J. would probably be, but I plan to do everything I possibly can to not let those fans down and just Steeler Nation as a whole and do everything I can to help us win some games and bring another championship back to Pittsburgh. It would be something incredibly special for our family if we could all three somehow find a way to get together on the field in the same uniform.”
That became a theme for Derek throughout the call. Sure, he fielded his fair share of "family" narratives and "reunited" storylines, but it all circled back to one thing: He's here to win and to contribute on the football field. While J.J. is a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and perennial All-Pro and T.J. is coming off a first-team All-Pro season of his own, Derek is a fullback.
That fact has caused him to be overshadowed by his two brothers, and it's something he recognizes. With the Steelers, Derek expects to contribute on both offense and special teams, and he understands neither of those positions brings much of a spotlight with it.
And he doesn't mind that one bit.
"As a fullback in the NFL, you better be a special-teams guy, a core special-teams guy," Derek said. "You gotta know your role. I was talking to somebody else earlier and telling them as a fullback in the NFL, you have to play special teams. You don’t get those reps in games as often. You’re not on the field as much as other positions. It’s just kind of the nature of the sport and the position."
What will that look like exactly during his first year with the Steelers?
"I think that, what I’ve shown both on offense and special teams, I’m not entirely sure what the outlook or the game plan looks like," Derek said. "I know when I talked to Coach Tomlin briefly he said, ‘We’ll get to that later’ and kind of, he’ll lay out the plan they have for me. I think [it’ll be] both offense and special teams. It’s not just one or the other.”
Derek tied for the league lead in special teams tackles last season with now-former Steeler Tyler Matakevich, who was signed by the Bills on a two-year, $9 million deal in free agency. It's obvious, then, the Steelers expect Derek to pick up some of that slack. But they also expect him to help replace Roosevelt Nix, a Pro Bowler in 2017 who helped paved the way for one of Le'Veon Bell's most successful seasons in the NFL.
Nix, however, appeared in just three games last season for the Steelers, hampered by injuries throughout the year that eventually led to the Steelers seeking his replacement. For Derek, then, the expectations begin there — special teams and fullback — but he adds that he may be able to add something else, too.
“I definitely feel capable, whether it’s in the route-running, as a receiver, catching the ball, I completely trust myself and would be definitely willing to take on more of that role as a wing tight end for sure," Derek said. "I’m not entirely sure what the coaches have in mind, but whatever they ask me to do, whether it’s on offense [or] special teams, I’m going to give it everything I got.”
Through it all, Derek made one point clear: Heartwarming as the "brothers" angle is for fans and media alike — "Obviously it's a tremendous opportunity and a privilege" — this move to Pittsburgh is about football. It's about getting on the field, making an impact and proving that he belongs.
The fact that it's happening with the Steelers, one of the NFL's most lauded franchises, just makes it that much sweeter.
"What made Pittsburgh a great fit for me is just the culture that they have there, the tradition that they’ve built — the hard-working, blue-collar, tough-nosed organizations," Derek said. "I just feel like that kind of fits into the way I was raised and the way I try to play the game.
"Playing against the Steelers, I got that opportunity to up-close-and-personal see how the fans were. Now they’ll be cheering for me instead of against me, which will be nice. They are very loud and supportive when you’re on their side. And they make it difficult when you’re on the other side. So I’m looking forward to having Steeler Nation behind me and just kind of getting to work with those guys. It just seems like such a great fit, organizationally, and the players they currently have and coaches, the mindset and everything like that.”
An iconic franchise, a legendary city AND the chance to play on the same team as my brother. Could not possibly be more excited for what’s ahead! Pittsburgh, I promise to give you everything I have to make you proud.
STEEL CITY LETS GO!! (Need @primantibros ASAP) #SteelerNation pic.twitter.com/FL4QnoorRN
— Derek Watt (@DerekWatt34) March 18, 2020
Now, it's back to work for Derek, who says he's working out with T.J. at J.J.'s house in Wisconsin during the offseason — a normal routine for them throughout the years. Once they get to Pittsburgh, however, they're going to split up. Being roommates or, to throw it back to the meme, Step Brothers-type live-ins, sounds great ... on the surface.
“There’s a fine line between being around each other every single day nonstop," Derek admitted.
Hey, maybe the Rooney Complex can set up some bunk beds for them in the meantime.
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