The proprietors of Primanti Bros., a Pittsburgh-born chain of sandwich shops, really want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers sign unrestricted free agent J.J. Watt. So much so that it has offered to re-brand itself as Watt Bros., if his brothers—T.J. and Derek, who already play for the Steelers—can convince him to join them in Pittsburgh.
What Are the Odds J.J. Watt Comes to Pittsburgh?
Some will scoff and insist there’s no way the Steelers can make it happen from a salary cap perspective. But the notion is undeniably much more realistic than it was before Friday, when the three-time Defensive Player of the Year (2012, 2014, 2015) was released by the Houston Texans, freeing the 31-year-old to sign with any NFL team.
For his part, T.J. Watt has already suggested that his brother sign with the Steelers. And Jeremy Fowler, senior NFL reporter for ESPN, has ranked the Steelers as the #1 “best fit” for J.J. Watt, ahead of the Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams, in that order.
Even oddsmakers regard the Steelers as the leading contender to sign J.J., with DraftKings Sportsbook making Pittsburgh the initial favorite at +400.
The main obstacle, of course, is money and salary cap space. The salary cap is expected to go down to circa $180 million in 2021, and the Steelers are going to be carrying what looks to be a franchise-record amount of dead money this season, in contrast to the relatively meager amount of dead money they absorbed in 2020.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will count a minimum of $22.25 million against the team’s cap this year, and the recent retirements of center Maurkice Pouncey and tight end Vance McDonald mean another $6,475,000 and $2,727,500, respectively. You get the idea….
So if J.J. Watt wants to earn anything remotely close to the $17.5 million he was scheduled to earn with the Texans in 2021, that’s a show-stopper. And while he’s not quite the same player he was in his 20s—and may not command $17.5 million, especially in the midst of the salary cap reduction—he still figures to want to get paid.
Consider that Pro Football Focus still has him rated as the third-highest graded Edge rusher since 2018, right behind his brother T.J.
In 2020, J.J. Watt started all 16 games for the Texans and recorded 52 tackles (36 solo), with 14 tackles for loss, 17 quarterback hits and five sacks. He also had seven passes defensed, one interception and one fumble recovery.
Would Primanti Bros. Really Change Its Name?
As for how Primanti Bros. would handle a name change, no doubt the move would be temporary, much like how IHOP (International House of Pancakes) temporarily switched to IHOb to generate publicity and promote its burgers.
Primanti Bros., which was established in Pittsburgh in 1933, has a total of 25 locations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan.
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