That freak athleticism goes a long way in explaining his success on the field. Watt is a three-down linebacker who can chase down quarterbacks around the edge or shoot gaps between blockers. At Wisconsin, he’d roam throughout the backfield to find weak points in blocking schemes, attacking to create havoc so he or his teammates could capitalize. Here’s an example of that cerebral pre-snap planning, courtesy of the Big Ten Network.
He also has the flexibility to shadow tight ends or drop into zone coverage, notching four passes defended and a pick-six last fall. Solid fundamentals — strong hits at the point of contact and good wrapping of ball carriers — make him a sound tackler. That, combined with his ability to attack and shed blockers, should make him the kind of defensive player whose name is called over the PA several times each game.
Jack Ham and Jack Lambert are inner-circle Steelers all-timers, just as critical to Chuck Noll’s teams as Greene and L.C. Greenwood. The franchise has had 17 linebacker Pro Bowlers, by far the most of any position. The Steelers sucked in the ‘80s, but Ham and Lambert eventually gave way to Jason Gildon and Joey Porter, two star outside backers, at the turn of the millennium.
Porter, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, and ageless wonder James Harrison have all keyed Super Bowl runs. A few of those occupy the top slots on the Steelers all-time sacks list, with Harrison at No. 1 with 79.5 career takedowns. The Steelers have had Hall of Fame-level QBs, but defense has been their central theme.
Linebackers are the ones who get cheered loudest when they run out of the tunnel at Heinz Field. They’re the ones whom we, as Pittsburghers, use to rationalize why other teams will always cower against us. (I’m not saying it’s a rational thing; it’s just a thing.) Pittsburghers love linebackers as much as they love eating french fries on their sandwiches, which is to say we really love them a lot.