PITTSBURGH — T.J. Watt said there’s no hard feelings between himself and Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson after the low block that knocked Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ preseason finale on Sunday, but is searching for answers about how to limit his exposure to injury while being blocked.
Watt practiced in full both days this week said he is fine. If it had been a regular season game, he likely would have gone back in to continue playing.
Watt said that Hockenson apologized immediately after the hit, but doesn’t feel that he needs to apologize for doing what is currently a legal block.
“There’s a few words exchange, just like, ‘sorry I had to do that’ or something like that,” Watt said. “I didn’t have any words to say back to him. Just more frustration that anything. Those blocks are always tough to deal with. Like I said, it is a legal block, so I can’t be too upset. But it’s also one of those things where I honestly don’t know what I can do differently in that situation. … Obviously, it’s being taught because it’s a legal move so I don’t really any grudge against them I just have to figure out how to handle it better.”
As to how Watt can handle it better and not get himself injured on an otherwise routine block, he’s somewhat at a loss.
“You replay the situation, and it’s, what can I do differently so that doesn’t happen again?” Watt said. “And honestly, I haven’t really come up with a good solution, because if I try to hurdle the guy and he doesn’t go low, it’s a little different story too, because obviously, that’s my gap. Like I said, we made eye contact all the way up until about a yard and then there’s that split second, where I go to brace for impact and he goes low. So I don’t know how you can really play that block and get in that c-gap area effectively, but I’m just gonna have to try to figure it out, I guess.”
But Watt stopped short of calling for the league to ban the hit, as Steelers NFLPA union representative Cam Heyward did immediately after the game. Watt also said that he didn’t see the very similar block that injured New York Giants star rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux earlier in the preseason.
“I don’t know, I mean, I don’t really want to get in the weeds of what should and shouldn’t be in football,” Watt said. “But like I said I just have to find a way to be better in than situation to protect myself.”
One thing that you’re not going to see Watt do is just get out of the way and give up on a play to save himself.
“I love this game,” he said. “I’ll never shortchange the game, whether it’s a preseason or a regular season game, and that’s why the switch is flipped on, I don’t really care if it’s preseason or not, you just play football.”
Which, of course, is why so many questioned Mike Tomlin’s decision to have Watt in the game at that point in the first place.