When new Steelers fullback Derek Watt became a free agent on March 18, he thought of all of the potential places he could end up continuing his NFL career.
And before he even thought of the Steelers as a potential landing spot, his younger brother, Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, had a voicemail message from Coach Mike Tomlin telling him the team was interested in his brother and would be okay with that.
And you know, he told his brother right away too.
"We were working out and T.J. had a voicemail from Coach Tomlin that said we are interested in pursuing your brother, just wanted to confirm with you that is fine, something you would be okay with," said Watt. "T.J. called him back, told him he was excited and that would be awesome.
"It turned out my agents were keeping it a little bit of a secret from me. They told me the Steelers were interested but didn't tell me how interested because they didn't want me to get too excited if it wasn't going to happen. All along there have been some talks back and forth between my agents and the Steelers and I didn't know how close they were, how badly they wanted me. It ended up working out. I was super excited when they told me I had an offer. I am just looking forward to being out there.
"T.J. kind of had a clue too. He knew the Steelers were pursuing me. I knew they were interested, didn't know what it meant. It sounded like T.J. got a hint that it was going to happen and asked if I talked to our agents yet. I told him, no, and asked why. He said, okay, just call me back in a little bit. He must have heard a little bit before I did. Once I found out first, I wasn't with my wife (Gabriella) and son (Logan), so I called them and gave them the great news. T.J. was the next phone call. He was ecstatic. We got together that afternoon because we are hanging out together back at home and training and he was excited and so is our whole family."
This won't be the first time the Watt brothers will be teammates. While they haven't played with older brother J.J., the defensive end for the Texans because he is older, Derek and T.J. played together at Pewaukee High School and at the University of Wisconsin. And as Tomlin said after T.J. was drafted, 'Every team needs a Watt.' Now the Steelers have two.
"The more the merrier," said Watt. "T.J. and I have had the opportunity to play together in high school, college and now the NFL. J.J. has always been kind of envious of that. He has never really had the opportunity to be on the same team because he is older, other than playing in the backyard games. It's a special experience for us. To be able to do that on all three levels is incredible. We would love to play with J.J. too, that would be incredible, but we understand that is pretty unlikely.
"He is really pumped up for us. He is envious because we get that opportunity, but he is super happy for us because we get that chance. For our family as a whole it makes things so much easier as far as travel and things like that. He is rooting for us this year, except when we play them."
The Watt brothers are all working out together in Wisconsin right now, doing what everyone in America is doing and staying home and staying safe. He hasn't been able to come to Pittsburgh yet, but having his brother around is a huge help as he is trying to get adjusted to a new team from a distance.
"It's very helpful. It is unique," said Watt. "You aren't going to the cities to sign, do physicals and meet the staff. But having T.J. here and we always work out together in the offseason. We are getting extra time, we are teammates, so we are holding each other accountable. Everybody is helping everybody. That is the main thing, do what you have to do to keep everyone safe and do the workouts."
Watt brings multiple aspects to the Steelers offense from his ability to block for the run game as well as be an option in the passing game.
"I think I will fit into the offense well with that group," said Watt. "I will try to lead the way for the backs and try to continue in the passing game as well. I think I have some versatility in my game to be used in multiple areas. It's a hard-nosed tough tradition of greatness. It's tough blue collar. I think I fit that mold well. It fits the way I was raised."
He is also a special teams ace, and has recorded 33 tackles, including 24 solo stops, in four seasons. He was tied for the NFL lead with 16 special teams tackles in 2019 and was a first alternate Pro Bowl selection.
"You have to really want it," said Watt. "You have to know your role. As a fullback you aren't going to get as many snaps as other positions. If you are going to be in the NFL you better play special teams and you better play it well. That is the mindset I came in with as a rookie. I met with the special teams coaches early in my career and told them I know my role and take pride in it. I feel like I improved in special teams every year. On special teams you never know what play is going to win a game. A kick return for a touchdown completely changes a game. A punt return for a touchdown completely changes a game. A blocked punt. Those are crucial plays. If you take one play off, you can hurt your team. I take pride in that. It's a time to shine. You can make a few tackles and then make a few more. A big play on special teams can change a game.
"Special teams in the NFL is a step up from college. You have guys who were the top dogs in college playing special teams. You have to have a different mindset. I have seen guys step up to that and some crumble with that. Kickoff and kickoff return isn't for everyone, it's not always easy, but you have to lay it on the line and I have tried to do that my whole career."
Watt said he can't wait to get to Pittsburgh once things get back to normal, but the one thing he really can't wait for it to play in front of Steelers Nation, this time wearing black and gold. The last two years with the Chargers he played at Heinz Field, seeing how the fans were, and then in Los Angeles last year when Steelers Nation took over on the road.
"It's an incredible atmosphere," said Watt. "It was special playing there at Heinz Field. It was a night game. The atmosphere was electric. The Terrible Towels were waving. You could feel it. Last year in Los Angeles, Steelers Nation made it a home game for them. As a player, it made it tough. When you are on the road and you have fans that support you like that, you feed off that. I am excited to have them cheering for me instead of against me."