As the Pittsburgh Steelers kicked off training camp last month, Steelers fans saw a lot of familiar faces return to Heinz Field to gear up for the 2021 NFL season. Of course, there is always a rush of excitement when we see live football in Pittsburgh and the countdown to opening day begins. But with each training camp, there are also business decisions to be made. For fans who sat in on the most recent open practices, they saw a familiar face along the sidelines and working separately from the team; T.J. Watt. So, “Watt” does this mean?
Watt is in the final year of his rookie contract and we are all aware of the massive need to make Watt a Steeler for life. The Steelers’ front office (being mainly Steelers President Art Rooney II and General Manager Kevin Colbert) have been making a plethora of changes and adjustments to current players’ contracts in preparation for retaining key talent on the team going into 2022. Earlier this week, Rooney met with the media and talked a bit about the situation:
“We’d like to get T.J.’s deal done, if we can, before the start of the season … That’s the goal. I don’t like to get into those details in terms of the discussions, but we’re going to try to get it done by the start of the season if we can.”
It looks like we have an old-fashioned holdout on our hands.
When Steelers fans think of a “holdout”, our minds go back to the Le’Veon Bell debacle in 2017. Before Bell, we even saw the likes of Hines Ward holdout after the Super Bowl victory in 2005. Bell did not apologize for his holdout, felt no remorse, and was seemingly happy to leave Pittsburgh. Ward on the other hand, regretted his holdout and apologized to Rooney and the team. In his press conference this week, Rooney explained:
“I try not to get optimistic or pessimistic. I’ve seen these things go so many different ways over the years. We’re just going to do our best and I think both sides want to get something done so that’s always a good thing.”
It is obvious Watt wants to stay in Pittsburgh and the Steelers want to do what they can to make that happen.
In 2021, Watt is due to earn about $10M. According to Spotrac, Watt has an “estimated worth” of $127.36M over a five-year span, averaging $25.47 per year. If these numbers hold, Watt would be the second-highest paid edge rusher in the NFL (the highest paid is the Los Angeles Chargers’ Joey Bosa at about $27M per year). The Steelers have never paid that much to a defensive player in history. With the 2022 NFL salary cap ceiling set at $208.2M, the Steelers are looking for a way to afford this type of contract with Watt. Looking at the numbers, they could very well do it.
Historically, the Steelers try to complete contract talks before the regular season kicks off; preferably in the down-time between minicamp and training camp. With that said, I expect the Steelers and Watt to get something done in time for the season opener on September 12th. There is no question of Watt not wanting to play in Pittsburgh in 2021, let alone not playing at all, and the Steelers are eager to see him on the field. Expect big news from the Steelers and Watt in the coming month.
Do yinz think a deal will get done before the season opener? Sound off in the comment section below!