One of the potential fixes for a running game the Steelers have identified as in need of repair might turn out to be a guy who doesn't have a carry or a catch and has played just 31 offensive snaps.
"I see it coming and it couldn't be at a better time," offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said today of getting fullback Derek Watt more involved, perhaps as soon as this Sunday at Jacksonville "It's time to use him."
Fichtner envisions Watt contributing if and when the Steelers opt to operate as they had at times during the 2018 season.
Back then they periodically deployed what Fichtner referenced as the "10s package," which was designed to be "run-heavy but have an ability to throw the football and look for chunks (big plays)."
The Steelers went with bigger players in "10s," which also allowed smaller players to rest.
"We felt like we were successful in that package," Fichtner continued. "It didn't materialize last year because (fullback) Rosie (Nix) was always hurt and went on IR. When we went out and got Derek (as an unrestricted free agent) we were all excited about it and then COVID comes, we get no offseason, and Derek had some offseason clean-up things (surgically) and so he had a limited amount of (training) camp.
"That probably put him behind the eight ball a little bit and maybe a little bit with us. But he's ahead of it now and it's time to figure out how to use him the best, what can we get out of it. It's gotta be a part of our football moving forward. If nothing else it'll help, potentially, in the run game. It'll help in the play-action game."
The Steelers are No. 24 in the NFL in total offense (24th rushing and 18th passing).
They've failed to rush for 50 yards in three consecutive games (48 on Nov. 1 at Baltimore, 46 on Nov. 8 at Dallas and 44 last Sunday against Cincinnati).
Watt has appeared in five of the Steelers' first nine games, predominantly on special teams. He returned from a three-week absence (hamstring) for last Sunday's 36-10 win over Cincinnati.
Injecting Watt into the offense would constitute more of a complement than an overhaul.
"In certain weeks, by putting him in a personnel group we can create, maybe, the structures we want to attack, and with the bodies that they would attempt to play us in that personnel group," Fichtner explained. "Sometimes, it's really unique and you want to get to it and you want to have a plan off of it. Some weeks it may take a back seat whether he's healthy or not because it might not be in our best interest, per se, it's a fine line.
"I know if he had been here healthy through training camp, I think we would have felt better about some of the things that he would have been able to do. I think we're still trying to find that out."