Sunday night’s game against the Tennessee Titans will likely be the final opportunity for the starters to all work together in the preseason, as many of them won’t play in the final preseason game against Carolina on Aug. 29. T.J. Watt likes what he sees from the defense so far, and can’t wait to put it on display this week in front of a national television audience that will see the game on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
“We’re flying around a lot faster than we were last year, especially around this time of year,” said Watt. “I feel like we have a lot of great players and we will be able to get us all out there together as a unit. To be able to go out there this weekend and put it all together on a big-time stage will be good.
“I think we are gelling really well. We are playing really fast. That is the number one thing you are seeing. Even if we do miss some tackles this year, you are going to see another guy behind being able to clean the mess up. I think that is going to be our distinct trait this year, being really fast around the ball. Just trying to create more turnovers, trying to be able to get the push up front and be more ball aware this year.”
Watt and Bud Dupree have comfortably settled into their role changes from a year ago, and could be another in a great line of linebacker duos in Steelers’ history. And while they respect that history, they don’t want to be compared to any other tandems, rather make a name for themselves.
“I was looking at (Bud) and seeing how fast and how great he looks out there on the practice field,” said Watt. “I think we are going to have a special year together. We both know the playbook really well. We are starting to play off each other really well. We are just waiting until we can split a sack and sit down and have a picnic together.
“You look at a 3-4 defense and it’s meant for the outside linebacker to make that splash and make the big-time, game changing plays. We can make an impact on every play. We drop in coverage. We make a lot of edge rushes and pass plays. We do a lot of different things. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We want to be our own duo. We don’t want to be compared to the legends of the past.”
A big moment: Diontae Johnson will have his first opportunity to work with Ben Roethlisberger in a game, and the rookie is anxious to get to work with the veteran gunslinger.
“I am looking forward to it,” said Johnson. “It’s a big moment for me to show them what I can do with Ben and the rest of the guys. That is what I am looking forward to.
“There is more I can do every day. Just because I make a play here and there, doesn’t mean everything is cool. I am just trying to progress and show them I can still improve.”
He said it: Joe Haden, who has missed time with what he referred to as an ‘ankle contusion,’ on how he is progressing.
“I am feeling pretty good. I wouldn’t say I am 100 percent, but I am getting very close.”