After not playing all preseason with a hamstring injury, T.J. Watt was chomping at the bit to get out on the field last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
“I hated missing as much time as I did,” said Watt before the game. “I love the game of football so much. I think that is why it was so hard for me. Some guys might enjoy the break, but for me it was so tough. I love the game.”
That love was apparent when Watt was a dominant force for the defense in the season-opening tie against the Browns, finishing the game with four sacks, a single-game career high, and 11 tackles.
His efforts didn’t go unnoticed as he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week, the first time he has won the honor in his young career.
“I think we’re gelling really well as a defense and that just shows you all the hard work that we’ve been putting in at this point,” said Watt. “We’re going to keep going and keep getting better.”
Coach Mike Tomlin called out Watt’s performance during his weekly press conference as ‘a really good’ one, and it’s one that didn’t surprise him.
Watt made the switch from right outside linebacker to left outside linebacker this offseason, and it appears that the switch is working, but it’s still too early for Tomlin to deem it a success.
“I think time will tell,” said Tomlin. “I am not going to try and paint with a broad brush after one performance, but I will say I am not surprised that he had an impactful game. It was schematically set up for him to have an impact game, and he did.”
While it wasn’t part of why he won the award, Watt was able to help salvage the tie when he blocked Zane Gonzalez’s 43-yard field goal attempt with just seconds to play.
Check Steelers.com and the Official Steelers App on Thursday morning for an exclusive interview with Watt.