The Pittsburgh Steelers still expect a freakish James Harrison to play a huge role on defense at the age of 39 this season. But on Tuesday, the team named rookie T.J. Watt as its starting right outside linebacker heading into Week 1.
“He’s (Watt) been in that position really since Day 0,” Tomlin said in announcing the decision, via ESPN.com. “You don’t like to anoint people. You like to watch them earn it. We didn’t put it on paper. But it won’t be like he’ll be in a new position when he gets here on Wednesday. He’ll be in the same spot in the huddle he was in yesterday.”
Playing edge in a 3-4 defensive scheme takes a ton of nuance. That’s likely why Pittsburgh made sure that Watt could hold up his end of the bargain during the preseason. That’s exactly what the rookie first-round pick did in an astounding performance this summer.
For his part, Harrison is coming off a strong 2016 campaign that saw him record five sacks. He also tallied 2.5 sacks in three playoff games.
After whiffing on the likes of Bud Dupree and Jarvis Jones in the draft over the past few years, Pittsburgh is hoping J.J. Watt’s younger brother can break the trend of under-performing pass rushers in the Steel City.
He’ll definitely have an opportunity to prove himself Week 1 against fellow rookie DeShone Kizer and the Cleveland Browns.