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Steelers All 90: Ryan Watts Watches Joey Porter Jr. Tape to Improve Technique

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Pittsburgh Steelers CB Ryan Watts

The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Ryan Watts in the late rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft because his versatility allows him to play safety and cornerback. While he is adjusting to life in the NFL, Watts is happy to be out of school and to be a professional football player.

“I feel like it was a lot better than college because we are doing football and school,” Watts said. “Now, I can just focus all into football so really my job. I have really tried to hone in on that and be the best pro that I can be.”

While he adjusts to not having homework from his professor, Watts has been studying a new subject which is his teammate Joey Porter Jr.. With Porter playing extremely well in his first season, Watts threw on his tape and compared it to what he did in college. He quickly saw where he would make mistakes in his technique and went to work fixing it.

“Just watching more guys like Joey Porter’s tape and seeing what I did last year and I automatically got a sense of where my technique was wrong,” Watts said. “Just already being able to get ahead of the curve just learning from that technique and just being more firm on my press, already learning that from Joey Porter.”

While Watts is a hybrid safety that can play cornerback, the Steelers do not have a defined role for him yet as they are seeing where he fits in best. In college, Watts played all over the secondary, from safety to outside cornerback and even a little slot. Not many players play the slot at the size that Watts is but that is not scaring him away from trying.

“I played slot at Ohio State when I was guarding Garrett Wilson in practices so doing it there and learning, I had learning curves then,” Watts explained. “I have it in a sense of where I have learned from that and I know what to expect so I don’t have to jump over that curb.”

While it is unlikely that Watts plays in the slot for the Steelers, the team has tried putting him in a multitude of different positions just weeks after they drafted him.

“They really just want me to try everywhere and see where they can put me in versatility wise,” Watts said. “A couple of weeks I might be at safety and another week I might be at corner.”

With his experience of doing it in college, Watts is confident that he can learn and do both at a high level. The main difference between the two spots is how much you have to vocalize things to your teammates which is something Watts feels really comfortable with doing.

“I think it is really just being more vocal and just knowing what you are doing,” Watts said. “Even in college, at corner, the safeties did not need to tell me anything. I was always making checks from the corner [position.] It is really something I already have a knack for, just doing it at a different spot so I feel like it is natural.”

As a sixth-round draft pick, it is more of a long shot to crack the team’s initial 53-man roster but with his versatility, Watts can sneak onto the roster as a hybrid defensive back. Additionally, Watts fits in with the “Avatar” frame built defensive backs that the Steelers have loved drafting over the last few seasons. If he makes the team, Watts should provide an immediate impact on special teams at the very least.

29 • Ryan Watts, Defensive Back, Texas
6-foot-3, 208 pounds, 22 years old, 1st Season

Acquired: The Steelers drafted Watts with the 19th pick of the sixth round (195th overall) of the 2024 NFL Draft. Watts is the first Longhorn to be drafted by the Steelers since the team selected defensive back Curtis Brown in third round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Last seasonAs a senior, Watts’ production dipped just a bit as he finished the season with 38 combined tackles, three passes defended and one tackle for loss.

Pittsburgh Steelers CB Ryan Watts

Texas Longhorns defensive back Ryan Watts celebrates after a play against TCU, Texas Athletics

CollegeComing out of high school as an ESPN 300 recruit, Watts committed to Ohio State. After enrolling early, Watts appeared in seven games for the Buckeyes in 2020. In those seven appearances, Watts tallied five total tackles. During Watts’ true freshman season, the Buckeyes won the Big Ten, the Sugar Bowl and made an appearance in the College Football Playoff National Championship game.

The following season, Watts’ role grew just a bit as he appeared in all 12 games for the Buckeyes but was not a starter. In 12 games as a sophomore, Watts made six tackles and intercepted two passes which was tied for the team lead.

Pittsburgh Steelers Ryan Watts

Texas Longhorns defensive back Ryan Watts makes a tackle against a Kansas State player, Texas Athletics

Following his sophomore season at Ohio State, Watts transferred back home to the University of Texas. As a junior in 2022, Watts played in and started 13 games for the Longhorns. He racked up 51 combined tackles, one interceptions, four passes defended, four tackles for a loss and one sack. For his great play, the Big 12 coaches voted Watts an honorable mention All-Big 12 honoree and honorable mention All-Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.

In total, between his time at Ohio State and Texas, Watts played in 43 collegiate games with 23 starts. He tallied 100 combined tackles, three interceptions, seven passes defended, five tackles for loss and one sack.

Year School GP TKLs INTs PDs FFs
2020 Ohio State 7 5 0 0 0
2021 Ohio State 12 6 2 0 0
2022 Texas 13 51 1 4 0
2023 Texas 11 38 0 3 0

Salary cap and future: Since the Steelers drafted Watts, he is signed with the team through the 2027 season. His standard four-year rookie contract is worth $4.2 million in total. His cap hit in 2024 is listed at $840,671 which includes a base salary of $795,000 and a prorated bonus of $45,671.

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