“I thought it was a legitimate possibility that I could go to Green Bay,” Watt said this week during a conference call with reporters. “But they didn’t want me.”
Instead, general manager Ted Thompson traded out of the first round, deciding there would be similar value early in the second round (where he took cornerback Kevin King at No. 33) and the chance to get a pass-rusher later (which he did with the other pick he acquired in the trade, a fourth-rounder that he used on Vince Biegel).
Like Watt, Biegel not only played at the University of Wisconsin but also grew up in the state. However, Watt would have been a wildly popular pick among the fan base considering the success his brother J.J. had both with the Badgers and in the NFL.
“I’m just happy the Pittsburgh Steelers called me next and they took me in with open arms,” said Watt, who came off the board at No. 30, “and I couldn’t be happier to be a Pittsburgh Steeler.”
While this game shouldn’t be a referendum on Thompson’s decision because Biegel will be making only his fourth appearance in a regular-season game following foot surgery in the offseason, it’s the first chance for the Packers and their fans to see what could have been had Thompson made the call for Watt.
In his first three games, Biegel has played a combined 41 snaps without a sack, while Watt has been one of the top rookie pass-rushers. In Week 1, he had two sacks and an interception, and he's tied for third among all rookies with four sacks overall.
Like Biegel did earlier in the week, Watt downplayed this as neither a matchup against his former teammate nor a chance to stick to it to the Packers for not taking him.
“I view it just as any regular game for me,” Watt said. “Obviously being from Wisconsin and growing up a Packers fan for the majority of my youth -- until J.J. got to the Texans, of course -- I think people are trying to make this game seem like it’s a lot bigger to me than it is. But to be honest with you, I didn’t have high expectations or I didn’t really care where I ended up in the draft. I just wanted to end up with a good team and a great fit, and I’m glad that I ended up here in Pittsburgh. This is going to be just another game for me, and more importantly it’s another game at Heinz Field in front of Steeler Nation.”
While the Packers still don’t know what they have in Biegel, the Steelers couldn’t be happier with Watt.
“He’s a very low-maintenance young guy,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “He learns lessons extremely quickly. He’s a guy who’s capable of learning from others’ mistakes. He himself doesn’t make mistakes twice. He’s diligent, he’s attentive. He’s a note taker, he’s very professional in his approach. I think all of those things set him up for the consistency in the play we’re getting.”