A few days ago my fellow BTSC colleague, and Steelers brother from another mother, Michael Beck penned a hugely successful article discussing the possibility of Houston Texans star DE J.J. Watt maybe joining his brothers in the Steel City one glad day in the future. The mere thought of the three Watt brothers all wearing the Black and Gold makes for great theater and generates an excitement that their Subway commercials could only imagine.
I immediately commented that the idea itself created a fun topic of discussion, but unless J.J. Watt had somehow been hiding the ability to play lights out at left tackle, the Steelers had far bigger needs that demanded their attention. I thoroughly enjoy articles that generate positive discussions at a time when they are desperately needed for the Steelers faithful. Michael Beck's creatively inspired article did just that.
That article got my creative juices flowing, got me thinking outside the box so to speak. As anyone who has the misfortune of knowing me personally can attest, it doesn't take much. Anyone familiar with my writing over my two years with BTSC already knows my suggested acquisition articles often skirt around the edges of reality. I resist taking the deep dive into the practicality of trading personnel as far as salary cap considerations are concerned because the pencil pushers somehow find a way to make it work if they want to bad enough. Push the hit down the road a couple years if need be. Colbert, get out the corporate credit card if you would be so kind.
With that being said, here is my brilliant idea. Keep in mind this whole scenario is only viable if Ben Roethlisberger decides to call it a career, and ride off helmetless on his Suzuki Hayabusa into the sunset. If, and only if, Ben retires; then the Pittsburgh Steelers should look into the possibility of trading All Pro OLB T.J. Watt to the Houston Texans for Pro Bowl QB Deshaun Watson. Before anybody starts sending hateful texts and emails to our BTSC editors, hear me out for a second.
T.J. Watt is the odds on favorite to win the NFL DPOY award this season. That type of recognition for a 26 year old first team All Pro will demand an astronomical number when contract negotiations roll around in the near future. Watt will warrant the largest contract for a defender in NFL history in all likelihood. Think Myles Garrett with the Cleveland Browns, only bigger. Keep in mind T.J. Watt has never attempted to use a piece of football equipment as a deadly weapon in front of a national television audience.
Also keep in mind how poorly the Steelers have handled contract negotiations with their superstar players in recent years, everybody that is besides Ben Roethlisberger. That is because QB negotiations are far more straight forward and easier than other positions. With quarterbacks the market value is all relatively set, with few exceptions. As Mike Tomlin stated a couple of weeks ago, it's the cost of doing business.
Any team with a franchise QB knows it needs to set aside 30 to 40 million dollars per season, the current cost of doing business with a franchise QB. That is if you are lucky enough to have one; if not, you better get busy acquiring one. In today's NFL, more than ever, no team is a true contender without one.
I know what you are thinking, that takes up a huge percentage of a team's salary cap. Consider the four teams playing in the conference championship games this weekend. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Green Bay Packers, and the Kansas City Chiefs are all already paying handsomely for their franchise QBs. Only the Buffalo Bills, with QB Josh Allen, are still reaping the benefits of having a QB still on his rookie contract. As huge an advantage that appears to be at first glance on paper, one would assume that there would be multiple teams in that advantageous position competing for the Lombardi Trophy every season, but that is seldom the case. The franchise QB factor is far more prevalent.
Therefore if Ben retires, the Steelers are no longer legitimate Super Bowl contenders without a franchise QB on the roster. Maybe they no longer are even if their elder statesmen of a QB returns for one last go around. That is certainly debatable and it will be up to Roethlisberger and the Steelers to decide if that is the case. Regardless, it would make little sense to tie up an inordinate amount of the salary cap in a defensive superstar, no matter how talented the individual, if you lack the one player that every true contender must have at their disposal. Especially when you consider that two time All Pro FS Minkah Fitzpatrick will be needed a substantial raise not long after T.J.
The truth is a superstar defender can be game planned for and neutralized for long stretches of games. Double teams and chip blocks can make them nearly invisible at times. Franchise QBs like Deshaun Watson are always impactful as they touch the football on every offensive play. Watson is a true superstar who produced incredible numbers this season surrounded by a talent deficient roster in Houston.
Put Deshaun Watson on the Steelers and the Steelers are back to contender status in no more than a couple seasons. He is a talented young man of solid character who deserves far more support than he is presently receiving. He could be just the man to add to the Steelers already crowded trophy case.
Kevin Colbert needs to pick up the phone and call the Houston Texans. Offer T.J. Watt and next year's number one for Watson. Throw in Derek Watt for good measure. It would make for a great storyline in Houston. I can see the headlines now as the Texans PR department promoted the Watt Family Reunion. Subway could purchase the licensing rights to the stadium. It might even cause J.J. Watt to reconsider abandoning the franchise.
A man can dream can't he.