Not too long ago I wrote an article here at Behind The Steel Curtain giving three acceptable examples of the very limited breaking news which could occur between Steelers minicamp and 2021 training camp.
There was a flurry of news last Thursday between the Steelers not returning to St. Vincent College, releasing David DeCastro, and signing Trai Turner. Still, all three of the items listed in my previous article are still standing. But in the comments, a fourth item was brought up which I felt the need to address. It was an extension for T.J. Watt.
This was specifically left off of my list for good reason. The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t generally do contract extensions during the downtime between minicamp and training camp.
There are actually four main times when the majority of the Steelers contract extensions get signed. The first is in March before the start of the new league year or slightly after it begins. The second time is during OTAs and minicamp when players are officially back at the facility for the first time. The third most common time when players are signing their contract extensions is when they report to training camp. Lastly, the very end of the preseason at the beginning of September is the last-ditch effort to get a contract extension signed.
To come up with these dates, I went back and looked at all the transactions on the Steelers website as far back as 2012, which is all the farther they go. Additionally, I looked up some big-name players and the dates in which they signed their contract extension with the Steelers. Almost everything falls within these for time periods.
For example, Ben Roethlisberger generally gets his deals done in March. In both 2008 and 2015 Roethlisberger signed his extension in March. In 2019 Roethlisberger’s extension came in April, but the reworking of his contract in 2020 also came in March.
Maurkice Pouncey is another player who generally got his deals done prior to training camp. In 2014 Pouncey’s extension came while the team was still doing OTAs, and his 2019 contract was signed in March before the start of the league year.
Another example of contract extensions signed during OTA/minicamp was in 2002 when Alan Faneca, Kimo von Oelhoffen, and Tommy Maddox all signed their deals in early June.
On the other end of the spectrum, there has been a lot of contract extensions worked out after players reported to training camp, with many times things going right up to the start of the season. David DeCastro deal in 2016 came the second week of September much like Stephon Tuitt in 2017 and Joe Haden in 2019. Troy Polamalu signed his extension in 2007 right after training camp began, but his famous deal in 2011 came in September right before the Steelers left for their Week 1 matchup.
The only exception which could give Steeler fans some hope of a deal with T.J. Watt coming before the Steelers return for training camp comes courtesy of Cam Heyward. No, it was not his 2020 extension which was signed in early September last year. Instead, it was his 2015 contract extension which was signed in the middle of July about a week before training camp began that season.
So it’s not impossible for the Steelers to work out a deal with Watt in the coming weeks. It’s not that they have some rule that they won’t do it much like they do when it comes to contracts during the season. Instead, it’s a history where it’s not generally the time the two sides get together. If wanting to estimate when this deal is likely to be done, I would put my money on early September before the regular season begins.
That is, if a deal gets done before the 2021 season.