The Pittsburgh Steelers have a rule that they do not negotiate player contracts once the regular season begins.
So the team could have a giant problem on its hands because linebacker TJ Watt is essentially holding out while being present in the building.
He wants his contract extension this week, and it is unclear how either party handles things if it does not happen.
For weeks, we have heard the parties are close, most recently on Thursday, September 2.
— Steelers Network (@steelersnetwork) September 2, 2021
What’s The Hold Up And What Are The Implications?
Watt wants to be the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL.
That seems likely, but the sticking point is on guaranteed money.
Watt wants guaranteed money beyond the first year of the contract, and that is not something the Steelers normally do.
The Steelers are more apt to load up the contract with a huge signing bonus and guaranteed dollars in the first year.
Other teams do not follow the Steelers method of no guarantees beyond the first year so it could be a case of whether Watt is willing to live with that uncertainty or test the waters of free agency at the end of the 2021 season.
No matter what happens, the fact that Watt has not been a full participant in training camp has already affected the Steelers.
Here are two way it has.
1. He Did Not Play In Preseason
This really is not a big deal for a player of Watt’s caliber.
His peers across the NFL were not playing much if at all in the three preseason games to preserve their bodies for the extended 17 game regular season ahead.
More significant is that he was a limited participant in training camp.
He was there but involved more in individual drills and not with team drills.
The Steelers condoned this behavior so they must be confident that Watt’s skills are not rusty and that they will reach a deal with him before the season starts.
2. He Could Miss Week 1
Missing the regular season is a much bigger deal.
If this situation lags much longer, Watt will not be ready for Week 1 simply because he lacks the reps and serious practice time.
Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin is a believer in participation in game week practice sessions to be ready.
Steelers LB TJ Watt, who is in his final year of his contract is looking to become the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL.
Watt could potentially sit out week one against the Bills if a deal isn’t done but Pittsburgh remains ‘optimistic’ a deal will get done.
— NFL Talk (@NFL_Talk_Sports) September 5, 2021
On Sunday, September 5, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN summarized the situation like this:
“And so, if something’s not done in the next, say, the next 48-to-72 hours, he’s definitely going to be in jeopardy of missing Week 1 because the Steelers stay tried-and-true to guys needing to practice in order to play. He’s been out there in individual drills and things like that, but they need more.”
— Blitzburgh ✨ (@BlitzVideos) September 5, 2021
This seems to be business as usual for the Pittsburgh Steelers who have a reputation for taking negotiations with key players down to the wire.
For those of yinz that are worried about Watt, Ima just going to leave these players and dates right here: #Steelers
Cameron Heyward September 6, 2020
Stephon Tuitt September 9, 2017
David DeCastro September 8, 2016
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) September 2, 2021
As a result, this could be much ado about nothing since the Steelers are known for this behavior.
Watt still can be signed, practiced, and ready for the Buffalo Bills game on September 12, but time is definitely ticking.
In the next few days, we will see what happens.