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PFF: Steelers ‘Can’t Afford to Lose’ DL Armon Watts

Pro Football Focus believes that the Pittsburgh Steelers can not afford to lose Armon Watts.



Pittsburgh Steelers DL Armon Watts
Pittsburgh Steelers DL Armon Watts against the Cleveland Browns, Sept. 18, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers are somewhat lucky in 2024 that they do not face many big free-agent names hitting the market. Often, that’s a good thing, and while guys like Miles Killebrew and Mason Rudolph will hit the free agency market, that’s still less stressful than most offseasons.

On Thursday, Pro Football Focus named one player each team can not afford to lose. While you might expect it to be one of the two above, it’s defensive lineman Armon Watts, who Brad Spielberger selected.

“Pittsburgh has very few pending free agents of note, which is generally a good thing, but Armon Watts was quietly a very effective rotational interior defensive lineman with the ability to push the pocket and work off Cameron Heyward, rookie Keeanu Benton and Larry Ogunjobi. With Heyward entering his age-36 season and Ogunjobi a potential cap casualty, retaining Watts on a lower-cost deal would make a lot of sense. Watts recorded a pressure rate above 10% on the interior, and his 73.8 run-defense grade was a career high by more than 10 grading points,” Spielberger wrote.

Watts, a sixth-round pick out of Arkansas in 2019, spent the first three seasons of his career with the Minnesota Vikings. He would then head over to the Chicago Bears for the 2022 season. Watts was cut from the Vikings in August of 2022, but he was immediately scooped up by the Bears, where he started 12 games. In 2021, Watts posted a career-high five sacks. For his career, he has 125 tackles and 15 quarterback hits. He registered a career-high QB Hits in 2021.

His production with the Steelers mirrored the productivity from his best seasons, where he consistently played at a quality level off the bench. He was the team’s designated sub-package pass rusher depth, something they had lacked in previous years. But he only signed for a one-year deal, and the team will have to replenish much of their defensive line depth. That priority seems likely to include Watts, who gave them quality play.