Wed, 03 Jun 2020

It's all about brotherly love

The Steelers
08 Apr 2020, 06:30 GMT+10

When T.J. Watt's phone rang recently, and he looked and saw the number, he had no idea what Coach Mike Tomlin was calling about.

The one thing he didn't expect was the call would be about his brother, Derek Watt, who at that moment was a free agent.

"I always knew Coach Tomlin and Danny Smith really liked Derek. We played them the last two years, and he said he really likes the way he plays football," said Watt. "Then Coach Tomlin called me and said we are interested in your brother and I want to make sure before we pursue him you are all right if he is on our team if it's an option for us. I was like, heck yeah. I would love to have him on our team. He would be a great asset."

And he didn't hold back on sharing with Tomlin why Derek would make a great asset, something he had done in the past as well.

"I know one of Derek's best traits is his availability and being ready when called upon," said Watt. "I have seen Derek play football my whole life. I grew up playing football with him in the backyard. I played high school football with him and went on to play with him in college and roomed with him for a year. I have been a big fan of his in the league too.

"I would tell the coaches during the season that he is playing well. I would remind them his contract is running out and he is playing better each week, especially special teams wise. He is a very reliable player. He is very versatile, especially on offense. He can catch the ball really well, he can block well, he can cut block. He can get on the edge. You watch on the film and he can do a multitude of things. He can carry the ball if we want. He can do a multitude of things. He has always wanted more opportunities, but he has made the most of the opportunities he has had. He is coming into his own on special teams. He has the tenacity and want to to make plays. He can be a heck of a player for us."

Tomlin obviously agreed with the things that T.J. shared, as not long after they hung up Derek's phone rang, letting him know the Steelers were interested.

"I was with Derek when Coach first called me," said Watt. "I told him, I don't know what that call meant, but it sounds like they are going to pursue you pretty hard in the next day or week. I didn't know what the timeline was.

"He didn't want to get too excited during the process. There were a few teams in the mix. I know he liked it in Los Angeles. He also knew we still had a fullback on the team. I didn't want to get my hopes up. He did say it would be awesome for it to come full circle to play together again.

"I told him to be ready. Sure enough, he got the call a few hours later. More than anything, once the call happened and he hung up the phone and he was going to be a Steeler, we realized it was going to be a once in a lifetime experience for the third time. We played together in high school, college and now."

Both T.J. and Derek were with their older brother, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, as well when the news arrived, and they rubbed it in just a little bit.

"I looked at J.J. and said it sucks to be you right now because we are playing together again," said Watt. "He is jealous. Very jealous. I caught him wearing a Steelers hat around the house. I have a screen shot of it on my phone but I won't leak it to the media, I promised J.J."

All joking aside, having his brother as his teammate for the third time has Watt nothing but smiles, at a time when we all need something to smile about.

"He was house searching in minutes, asking me about areas," said Watt. "I was like I must be a true Pittsburgher now because I know where all of the good spots are, how far the facility is from everywhere. Where the grocery store is. Maybe we will get a Giant Eagle account together."

Derek even scoped out a house in T.J.'s neighborhood.

"I want Derek to live close by, but I don't want him too close by," joked Watt. "I want to spend a lot of time with his family, with his son Logan, and his wife Gabriella and Derek. It's so special. I have been alone in Pittsburgh with my girlfriend, Dani, in school. It will be so special to have holidays where I know I will have family in town. Just the little things that are going to be really special for us."

Until then, the Watt brothers are spending time together working out while everyone is in a stay at home situation. While they don't all live together, they are able to go to J.J.'s house, where he has a setup that just the family is able to take advantage of.

"I am still working out with my brothers," said Watt. "J.J. has the facility, 'the compound' we call it, here. A lot of guys aren't able to train during this period because gyms are closed.

"It's so cool now. I am harder on Derek now and he is harder on me because we are on the same team. I better make sure he doesn't skip any reps and push him harder. We are on the same team, going for the same goal. I am excited to be on the same team as him. It's really unique."

The other thing that is unique is the fact that they can only workout with each other, that they can't join their teammates at facilities as the entire country is fighting COVID-19 and staying home.

"This time is so weird," said Watt. "It seems like the days of the week don't matter. It seems like each day is the same. You have to realize a lot of people are going through some really tough times. I am just fortunate to have a job and have the opportunity to be able to be around my family during this time.

"I am fortunate to be where I am, to have my family and have them healthy. There are a lot of people going through a lot of things. You have to reach out and feel for those people. I just hope everyone stays safe and stays home."

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