The clock is ticking for T.J. Watt to get his new contract completed in time for the self-imposed deadline from the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the impasse could hand the Buffalo Bills a significant advantage in Week 1.
The teams are set to kick off the season in just a little less than a week, but the Steelers have still not come to an agreement on a new deal that would allow Watt to rejoin teammates and prepare for the season. The stalled negotiations are now in danger of keeping Watt out of the season opener, which would be a welcome development for a Bills offense that he has ravaged in the past.
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Watt’s Status Up In The Air
As Mike Florio of NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk noted, the negotiations between Watt and the Steelers appear to have hit a wall. The All-Pro edge rusher is reportedly demanding a guarantee that stretches beyond this season, but Florio noted that the Steelers don’t guarantee payments beyond the first year of a veteran deal. Watt is seeking to become the highest-paid player in football, but time could be running out to get a deal done before the team shuts it down.
As Florio noted, the Steelers have an internal rule not to allow contract negotiations to stretch into the season. Watt has been present at training camp and going through individual drills, but has done no work with his teammates and not played in any of the team’s preseason games.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that it has been hard on Watt to be away from his teammates, but the impasse could keep him away for much longer — and potentially out of the lineup against the Bills in Week 1.
“And so, if something’s not done in the next, say, the next 48-to-72 hours, he’s definitely going to be in jeopardy of missing Week 1 because the Steelers stay tried-and-true to guys needing to practice in order to play,” Fowler reported on Sunday, via Bleacher Report. “He’s been out there in individual drills and things like that, but they need more.”
Handing Bills and Advantage
The Bills could gain a considerable advantage with Watt off the field on Sunday. He has been one of the most effective pass rushers in the NFL, averaging more than 14 sacks in each of the last three seasons to go along with 16 forced fumbles.
Watt has been particularly effective against the Bills. In a primetime matchup in 2019, he recorded a half sack and two tackles for a loss to go along with a forced fumble. He had two hits on Bills quarterback Josh Allen in last year’s game and a pass defended, though it was one of only four games he played all season in which Watt was held without a sack.
There could still be plenty of time to get the roadblocks moved and a deal signed. As Fowler reported, the Steelers still believe that Watt can be signed in time, though the ESPN insider said it won’t be simple.
“They are optimistic that something will get done here in short order, but because of the money involved it’s been a complicated deal,” he reported.