Contract or no contract, it appears that T.J. Watt is ready to take the field against the Buffalo Bills.
The status of the Pittsburgh Steelers edge rusher had been in limbo just days ahead of the season opener, with Watt showing up to training camp but not practicing with teammates as he pushed for a new deal. With just days left to get the deal done before the team shut down talks, it appears that Watt is ready to rejoin his teammates and is now on track to play against the Bills.
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Watt Back With Team
As Charean Williams of NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk reported, Watt ended the “hold-in” on Wednesday and rejoined teammates for the first time this season. Even though there are no reports that the contract talks are getting any closer to the conclusion, the Steelers will likely have Watt on the field against the Bills when the season kicks off on Sunday.
“Like I said yesterday, I’m proceeding with that assumption,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said when asked if Watt would be playing, via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor.
The situation looked much more uncertain to start the week. As Mike Florio of NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk noted, negotiations had stalled as Watt reportedly sought a guarantee that stretches beyond this season, which Florio noted was a no-go for the Steelers as the franchise doesn’t guarantee payments beyond the first year of a veteran deal.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler also cast doubt on whether Watt would play, reporting on Sunday that the contract situation needed to be resolved by mid-week in order for him to take the field.
“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, via Bleacher Report. “He’s been out there in individual drills and things like that, but they need more.”
Bills Wary of Steelers Defense
Watt has been one of the league’s best pass rushers over the last three seasons, averaging more than 14 sacks per season and forcing 16 fumbles during that time. He has had mixed results against the Bills in their two meetings, recording a half sack and two tackles for a loss to go along with a forced fumble in a primetime matchup in 2019. Last year, the Bills held Watt without a sack, one of only four times that he failed to record a sack during the season.
It’s not just Watt that the Bills are worried about. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Allen said that there are a number of defenders that the Bills will need to keep an eye on come Sunday, including safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
“He’s a ballhawk,” Allen said. “He just switches up his style every couple plays, you don’t know if he’s dropping into the box or if he’s trying to play over the top on something. He’s always around the ball, whether it’s a fumble that’s forced by one of their other guys that just seems like it’s popping right up into his chest. When the ball is in the air he has as good of ball skills as anyone in the league.”