Steelers' Mike Tomlin expects T.J. Watt to face Bills, remains optimistic a new deal will get done


CBS Sports 07 September, 2021 - 12:24pm 3 views

Did TJ Watt sign a new contract?

Watt have yet to finalize a new contract that is expected to make their All-Pro outside linebacker the highest paid defensive player in the NFL because they cannot agree on several items, most significantly the amount of guaranteed money, according to several team sources. Pittsburgh Post-GazetteMike Tomlin 'optimistic' Steelers and T.J. Watt will agree to new contract

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Mike Tomlin 'optimistic' T.J. Watt deal will 'get done,' All-Pro OLB will practice and play this week 08 September, 2021 - 12:21am

Pittsburgh Steelers star pass rusher T.J. Watt didn't play a down in the preseason, or even during team drills at practice, while attempting to leverage a contract extension. But despite that, his head coach believes he'll practice on Wednesday, play on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, and to boot, play well.

"I remain optimistic that something's going to get done from a deal perspective. That aside, I'm expecting him to work tomorrow. I'm proceeding with the assumption that he's going to work tomorrow," coach Mike Tomlin said at his Tuesday press conference. "That's the approach I'm taking. He's missed some time due to obvious reasons, but like I've also mentioned, over the course of this team development process, I focus very little on those that aren't working, for whatever reason that they're not working. ... I'm proceeding with the assumption that he's working tomorrow and that he gets to add his talents to that (OLB) collection, and the development of that collection, and hopefully it culminates in quality play not only this weekend from that group, but obviously over the course of the 2021 season."

Watt is entering the final year on his rookie contract, and is set to earn a little more than $10 million in 2021. He's outplayed that deal by a long shot, having earned two All-Pro nods and having led the NFL in sacks in 2020 with 15. The Steelers can be tough negotiators, however, and that's resulted in something of a preseason stalemate between player and club.

As for how much practice Watt might require to be available, Tomlin wouldn't say specifically. If available, Watt could be on something of a limited snap count for acclimation purposes. But Tomlin was also clear that a player of Watt's caliber doesn't need a lot of ramp-up time.

"We'll play it by ear. One thing I'm not going to do is assume that he's regular or normal. I think guys in the position he's in, they're in those positions because of their unique talents, skill sets and will," Tomlin said. "I've just been in this game so long at this level, I'm used to seeing uniquely talented people rise up in the face of adversity, or circumstance, and exceed it.

"I've been optimistic about this process running its course. Because of that optimism, I'm anticipating quality play from him this weekend and beyond."

Still, not everyone is as optimistic as Tomlin that a Watt deal will get done this week. NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala believes the Steelers' general stance against offering fully guaranteed dollars beyond the first year of a contract is a sticking point in negotiations.

The Steelers defense could certainly use whatever heat Watt could bring on Bills star QB Josh Allen.

But time is quickly running short.

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But Watt is "holding in." He hasn't practiced in full with the team as he seeks a new contract. 

It's an issue for the Steelers. Watt was an NFL defensive player of the year candidate last season. Pittsburgh's first opponent is the Buffalo Bills, which has one of the best offenses in the NFL. 

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he anticipates Watt practicing on Wednesday. 

"I remain optimistic that something's going to get done from a deal perspective. That aside, I'm expecting him to work tomorrow. I'm proceeding with the assumption that he's going to work tomorrow," Tomlin said, via

Until Watt is back on the field, it's a situation worth monitoring. There are other notable suspensions and holdouts to start the NFL season. 

Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson (likely inactive): This situation isn't necessarily a holdout or suspension, but Watson won't be playing for the Texans in Week 1 or presumably anytime soon. He asked for a trade, then was accused by many women of sexual misconduct, and the NFL hasn't weighed in during the legal investigation, so the Texans haven't traded him and won't play him. The Texans named Tyrod Taylor their starting quarterback. Whatever you want to classify this as, Watson will be inactive. 

Houston Texans CB Bradley Roby (suspension): Roby, a former first-round pick of the Denver Broncos and starter for Houston the past two seasons, will be serving the final game of his six-game performance-enhancing drug suspension this week. 

Miami Dolphins WR Will Fuller V (suspension): The Dolphins signed Fuller to a one-year, $10 million deal even though they knew Fuller would miss Week 1 while finishing a six-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. 

New Orleans DT David Onyemata (suspension): A starter at defensive tackle each of the past two seasons, Onyemata is suspended the first six games of the season after testing positive for a banned substance. 

Green Bay Packers TE Jace Sternberger (suspension): Sternberger said on Twitter that he had been suspended two games after doing anti-depressants, having a drink and getting behind the wheel of his car. His two-game suspension was for a violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

Chicago Bears DL Mario Edwards (suspension): Edwards, who had four sacks in 15 games for the Bears last season, was suspended two games for a violation of the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. 

Other notable veteran free agents who are suspended, via Pro Football Talk: running back Derrius Guice, receiver Corey Coleman, offensive tackle Jared Veldheer. 

Why wouldn't the Steelers just give T.J. Watt a blank check?

With the start of the season less than a week away, Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt is still declining to practice. Watt has been sitting out practice since the start of training camp because he wants a new contract, the Steelers haven’t given him one, and he doesn’t want to risk an injury until he [more]

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