Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro linebacker T.J. Watt has yet to feature in any team activities ahead of the new season. Instead, he's been present at training camp performing individual drills on the sidelines. And it looks like it's going to remain that way until he receives the contract extension that he desires.
Watt, 26, is being cautious with himself and has been working with trainers throughout camp to avoid any unfortunate injuries prior to completing negotiations. Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler stated the Steelers aren't holding him out and that the decision to stay out of practice was solely Watt's choice.
“I don’t blame him for that because you don’t want to get hurt when you’re trying to get your contract done,” Butler said, via Chris Harlan of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Then you kind of lose some flexibility in terms of what kind of [deal] you can sign. I don’t blame him for that. I hope they get it done.”
Furthermore, the linebacker most likely will not step on the field until an agreement is reached. The deadline to agree to a contract this season is September 12, and the two parties desperately need to resolve this issue prior to that.
T.J. Watt had a sensational 2020 season. He recorded 53 tackles and a league-leading 15 sacks along with one interception. He undeservedly finished as the runner-up to Aaron Donald as the Defensive Player of the Year last season.
T.J. Watt is a vital cog in the wheel for Pittsburgh Steelers
Over the course of his Pittsburgh Steelers career, he's tallied 230 total tackles, 49.5 sacks and four interceptions. He's widely known as, arguably, the best linebacker in NFL football today. So the reasoning behind his continued stay on the sidelines is completely valid.
Most players in Watt's position usually hold out and are unwilling to report to training camp. But T.J. Watt understands how pivotal of a season this will be for Pittsburgh, and that camaraderie is exceptionally important this year.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the most dominant defenses over the last few seasons. A huge component of their stellar play defensively has been the star pass rusher. The success of the defense is largely predicated on T.J. Watt's week-to-week performances and the overall attention he draws from offensive lines.
If the Steelers want to ensure they remain formidable for the foreseeable future, then locking up Watt and showing him his value to the franchise needs to be done immediately.