Ben Roethlisberger has been in T.J. Watt’s shoes umpteenth times since he’s been in Pittsburgh, so he knows what Watt is going through all too well.
In April, the Pittsburgh Steelers exercised the linebacker’s fifth-year option — reserved only for players drafted in the first round of the NFL draft. So, though Watt is under contract for the 2021 season, he’s seeking more than the $10.089 million (per OverTheCap) option would pay him.
If the two parties don’t come to an agreement before September 12, Watt will be the ninth highest-paid outside linebacker in the NFL. Sounds kind of absurd, doesn’t it? Although the sticking point is reportedly about guaranteed money, which the Steelers don’t dole out freely, Watt’s market value is $138.79 million or $27.7 million annually (per Spotrac). If Pittsburgh pays it, he would be the NFL’s highest-paid defender.
And Watt deserves every cent.
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When Ben Roethlisberger Speaks, the Steelers Should Listen
“I think T.J. should get whatever the heck he wants,” Roethlisberger said in a September 8 press conference. “He’s arguably the best football player in the game right now. Not just on defense, in general.”
Roethlisberger knows what he speaks. Drafted in 2004, two seasons before head coach Mike Tomlin came to Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger has been through his fair share of contract negotiations.
“One of the reasons I took less money was for guys like him to get paid,” Roethlisberger said. “And he needs to get paid. He deserves every penny that he wants and asks for. T.J. Watt is that guy who should get whatever he wants.”
Following the 2020 regular season, the Steelers and Roethlisberger mediated for weeks to come up with a new team-friendly deal for the quarterback to return in 2021. Before the new contract, Roethlisberger was set to make $19 million. Roethlisberger agreed to a deal that would cut his salary by $5 million — nothing to scoff at, of course, as the reworked deal still pays him $14 million this season.
All for the sake of T.J. Watt and future extensions, like the one on the horizon for Pro Bowl safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Watt Returns to Practice
Can we all say “WOOHOO”?!
Steelers fans (and players, too) breathed a collective sigh when it was reported on Wednesday that Watt had returned to practice with the team. This likely points to the linebacker suiting up for the Steelers Week 1 road matchup against the Buffalo Bills, which was uncertain even as of Tuesday.
Watt has not been completely away from the team throughout the extension-seeking process as player holdouts typically entail. According to multiple reports, including Trib Live’s Joe Rutter, the linebacker had not missed a practice since training camp began in July. Rutter shared that Watt took part in individual reps and conditioning at the Steelers facility but not in team drills such as 7-on-7 or 11-on-11s.
“We all feel bad for T.J. Everyone knows how bad he wants to be out there. The guy was here every single day, and he probably didn’t need to be. He’s working and busting his butt. He should get taken care of.”
The Steeler Way
History shows that the Pittsburgh Steelers do not partake in contract negotiations during the season, which means the clock is ticking for T.J. Watt to get his extension done. Their season kicks off this Sunday, September 12.