The Pittsburgh Steelers had some young players take leaps in 2023 such as Jaylen Warren, George Pickens, and others who could land the title for Most Improved Player on the team from their previous season. So, you would expect one of those names when Pro Football Focus listed out who they believed was the team’s most improved player throughout the year.
Instead, they put defensive lineman Armon Watts. Watts, coming off a year in Minnesota where his production dipped, saw his productivity throughout the season increase on a per-snap basis. He turned into a critical rotational piece for them.
“Defensive lineman Armon Watts joined the Steelers after playing in Chicago in 2022, and he earned a career-high run-defense grade. Watts could very well earn more playing time in 2024,” they wrote.
Over a week ago, PFF named one player each team can not afford to lose, and it’s Watts whom 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.