T.J. Watt has already etched his name in Steelers lore. In his first six seasons, the former first-round pick has been selected to five Pro Bowls, is a three-time All-Pro and in 2021 became the seventh player in franchise history to win Defensive Player of the Year.
Watt is on the doorstep of making more history in 2023 as he is just three sacks from matching James Harrison's franchise career sack record. But Watt isn't focused on individual accolades. Instead, he's focused on doing one of the main one things that eluded him during his first six seasons with the Steelers.
During a recent interview with CBS Sports, Watt shared his main goal for the upcoming season. He also tackled a variety of other topics that included being on the cover of a Wheaties box with his brother J.J. Watt (the family's middle brother, former Chargers and Steelers fullback Derek Watt, is on the back of the box) that will be available for purchase in early August.
First off, congratulations on sharing the cover on a Wheaties box with your brother, J.J. What's it like to be a Wheaties cover athlete and to be able to share the moment with your family?
T.J. Watt: "It's huge. The Wheaties box is legendary. You have so many special athletes that have been on the cover before. It's really a pinch me moment as I stand here and look at the box. It's incredible. To be able to share it with my brothers is so surreal. It's crazy how far this journey has really gone and how much further it's going to continue to go.
"But it's all rooted in hard work. Our parents instilled in us a sense of community and how it takes a village to raise a family. That's what makes us want to get out in the community as well. I'm just very thankful that Wheaties allowed us to have this opportunity to be on the cover."
You obviously look up to your brother. What is something from his game that you've tried to implement into your game?
T.J. Watt: "First and foremost, it's been the motor. I was spoiled to be able to watch him play. He was getting 1-2 sacks, three TFLs a game, batting passes every single game. It just seemed so normal that I took it for granted.
"When I got to the NFL, it wasn't until then that I realized how hard it is to do what he's been doing his whole career. I just had a great amount of respect for him and everything that he's been able to accomplish, because it is so hard to succeed at this level."
You're entering your seventh season with the Steelers, which is hard to believe. What is your main goal entering the 2023 season?
T.J. Watt: "Getting into Year 7, you're just trying to get to the Super Bowl. I've played in three playoff games and haven't won a single one, so that's a big issue. That's probably goal No. 1 is just to get into the playoffs and win a playoff game and just go from there.
"I'm not about the individual goals anymore. I've set myself up nice where I've been having a good career but it doesn't matter if you're not winning games when they matter most. I think that's objective No. 1, for sure."
T.J. Watt: "I'm very excited. We have a good mix of young and old guys. Obviously Cam Heyward has been there since the beginning of time, so he holds it down for us on the interior. And then we have a lot of young playmakers and just a lot of spark and a lot of guys who get after the quarterback. We obviously have Minkah (Fitzpatrick) on the backend leading the way."
Alex Highsmith recently signed a longterm extension that will keep him in Pittsburgh through the 2028 season. How's it feel knowing that you will continue to be able to work with him for the foreseeable future?
T.J. Watt: "It's awesome to be able to have continuity with the guy who plays on the opposite side of you. Hopefully we can both stay healthy for a long time and we can continue to get after the quarterback.
"There's a lot more to this defense than just me and Alex getting after the quarterback that allows us to do what we do, but it is awesome to know that he's going to be here for at least a couple more years, at least, and I'll be here for a couple more years. We just want to keep getting after the quarterback and be a part of the 3-4 defense that provides a lot of splash for our offense to be able to perform."
The Steelers will be opening up later this week (July 27) at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. Is there anything the rookies should know about surviving camp?
T.J. Watt: "Order a bed so you're not sleeping on a dorm bed. Get the blackout shades so you can take a nap. Actually our rookies — Nick Herbig — asked us today what kind of snacks we want. They're already ahead of the game. Usually, the snacks aren't coming in until a couple of days once you're already at in Latrobe. So I'm excited to walk into a meeting room full of snacks on Day 1."
Steelers fans have always made their presence felt during camp. How much does it help getting that type of support?
T.J. Watt: "It's definitely energizing. Steelers Nation travels so well no matter where we are. But even for training camp, it could be 105 degrees, no cloud in sight and there's going to be a ton of fans out there just wanting to support us.
"Anytime anyone spends their hard-earned time and money to come out and watch us practice in late July or early August, you can't help but just be thankful to be a Pittsburgh Steeler and have those people want to watch us."
The Steelers face several good quarterbacks in the AFC North, including Joe Burrow. He hasn't been shy about praising you after Steelers-Bengals games. Does playing against players of Burrow's caliber bring out the best in you?
T.J. Watt: "The reason why you play in the National Football League is to play against the best, and he's one of the best, for sure. He only brings out the best in us. It's literally a chess match all week trying to figure out how we're going to eliminate the things that he does best. He can throw the ball, he can escape the pocket. He just makes such good reads. To be able to have any sort of highlight play against him is an accomplishment and I'm just happy to have a few myself."
He's surely not happy about that.
T.J. Watt: (laughs) "He's got his fare share too. Trust me."