Derek Watt’s contract has to be one of the most impressive storylines within the Pittsburgh Steelers’ financial landscape.
Fans in the know are aware that he has a considerable cap hit heading into the 2022 season, but comparing the numbers to those around the league sheds light on a crazy situation.
Betting analyst Warren Sharp dove into the numbers recently, noting that Watt’s $4.7M cap hit is far and away the largest for any fullback in the league this year.
What’s even more impressive is the fact that he will account for a higher cap hit than any wide receiver on seven NFL teams.
PIT FB Derek Watt has a $4.7M cap hit this yr— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) August 7, 2022
it's the largest $ for any FB in the NFL (59% higher than FB Kyle Juszczyk)
but PIT used a FB on just 7% of all offensive plays last yr
he's primarily a special teamer but that's a HEFTY cap hit ( > every punter & > most kickers)
But as Sharp points out in his tweet, the Steelers used a fullback in just 7% of their offensive snaps. They ran 21 personnel (two running backs, one tight end, and two wide receivers) in only 2% of offensive plays.
The San Francisco 49ers also have a fullback with a hefty cap hit. Although it sits at $3 million for this season, the number will climb up to $6.6M in 2023 and $7.6M for each of the next two seasons.
The difference? Kyle Juszczyk is a protagonist in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. The 49ers run 21 personnel in 34% of their offensive snaps, being their second most common personnel grouping.
Since joining the 49ers in 2017, he has averaged 35 targets per season and 275 yards. In two seasons with the Steelers, Watt has totaled three targets and 15 receiving yards. As good as a special teamer as Watt is, it’s hard to justify such a cap hit unless you’re a Matthew Slater-caliber player on special teams.
So if the Steelers’ offense doesn’t feature a fullback, how come the front office is this comfortable with the situation when they could open up $2.75 million in cap space by releasing him?
Derek Watt’s role could increase in the post-Ben era
Perhaps offensive coordinator Matt Canada is aiming to turn the 21 personnel dial up with so much uncertainty at quarterback. After all, even a deep group of wide receivers is unlikely to make up for a shaky offensive line and the lack of a clear-cut QB1.
Canada admitted in June that the offense could look “noticeably different,” citing poor results as the reason why. That can mean a lot of things, but Steelers Nation is certainly expecting a more dynamic (and perhaps more vertical) offense this year.
Don’t forget Canada was Watt’s offensive coordinator at Wisconsin in 2012. That season, the fullback caught 12 passes for 150 yards as a freshman. He’s well aware of what he brings to the table offensively.
Among the many changes expected for the Steelers offense this season, one to monitor is fullback usage. It would both explain the substantial cap hit on Derek Watt’s contract and it would exploit the veteran’s talent.
Featured image via Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports