The big news as the 2022 NFL regular season draws to a close, aside from playoff seeding, is the retirement announcement of future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt.
On the date the news came down — December 27 — Watt’s little brother and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt had no words. Instead, he subtweeted a GIF of “The Office”‘s Michael Scott all teary-eyed.
T.J. first spoke about his brother’s imminent retirement a few days later during a December 30 press conference.
“He’s been talking about it for a little bit. Never knew how serious he was until the last couple of months,” Watt said. “Super proud and happy for him, excited to see him play these last two weeks. Just a hell of a career.”
But the question on every Steelers fan’s mind was whether J.J. would be coming to Pittsburgh to join his younger brothers. Specifically, the reporter asked, “Is he gonna pull a Gronk and come out of retirement to reunite with you at some point.”
T.J. said, laughing, “You’d have to ask him that.”
He didn’t say no.
For years, whenever he hit free agency, Steelers fans have clamored for J.J. Watt to join T.J. in Pittsburgh.
The “Gronk” reference stemmed from Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski, who famously came out of retirement to reunite with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay in 2020. The pair won a fourth Super Bowl together in 2021 before Gronk retired for a second, and what seems to be final, time.
T.J. Watt Can Still Reach J.J. Watt Status
T.J. Watt still has plenty of seasons ahead to reach J.J. Watt status, as the youngest Watt has been in the league for exactly half the time as J.J.
T.J. is on his way, though, with three first-team All-Pro nominations and five Pro Bowls. He’s led the NFL in the past two seasons, finally reaching the pinnacle last season, tying a single-season NFL-high 22.5 sacks (Michael Strahan), which helped earn him his first Defensive Player of the Year nod in 2021.
The eldest Watt will retire after 12 seasons as a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. He was drafted 11th overall by the Houston Texans in 2011 and headed west to the Arizona Cardinals in 2021. At the close of his pro career, on Sunday, January 8, Watt will have logged north of 110.0 sacks, 580 total tackles, 191 tackles for loss, 313 quarterback hits and 69 passes defended. He also has two interceptions, both for touchdowns.
Following a solid rookie season, Watt went on a tear from 2012 to 2015 logging 69 sacks, 315 total tackles and 119 tackles for loss. In two seasons, he was the NFL leader in sacks (2012, 2105) and a three-time leader in tackles for loss. Those performances earned him four consecutive first-team All-Pro nominations and a whopping three Defensive Player of the Year awards. DPOY has been awarded three times to only two other players: Lawrence Taylor and Aaron Donald.
But who’s counting? Probably the Watt brothers. Like most siblings — especially athletes — they have a fierce competitive spirit.
The Brothers Watt at Heinz Field
In 2020, J.J., Derek and T.J. Watt stepped onto the football field for the first time in their pro careers. Derek had played J.J. and T.J. against J.J. but never had all three of them.
Per NFL of CBS, they became just the second set of brothers since 1930 to appear in the same NFL game. Interestingly, the first set also involved the Steelers. Safety Terrell Edmunds and his running back brother Trey once played together in Pittsburgh. In 2019, they faced their brother Tremaine when the Steelers took on the Bills.
While it appears when J.J. Watt officially retires, it’ll be for good. But as Brett Favre, Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady have taught us, never say never.