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Even if T.J. Watt returns to practice, could the Steelers still hold him out Week 1?

The Steelers are hopeful to get T.J. Watt’s deal done, but even if he returns to practice without a deal could the team hold him out?

Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers fans know the team’s rules when it comes to contracts. They don’t negotiation new deals/extensions once the regular season begins. There are other unwritten rules, but this is the one everyone knows about how the Rooney family does business.

Throughout the years, there have been reports of players signing a new deal at the final hour. Most famous was when Troy Polamalu reportedly inked a deal before he stepped on the plane to fly to their Week 1 matchup.

The Steelers find themselves in yet another contract squabble with a player, this time T.J. Watt. Watt is in the 5th year option of his rookie contract, and he wants to sign a new deal before the 2021 regular season begins.

He hasn’t missed a training camp practice, but has refrained from any contact drills and playing in preseason games until a deal is done. Monday the Steelers had an extra practice preparing for the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, and many thought Watt would return to practice regardless of contract. After all, he is under contract. However, Watt continued to workout on his own, and did not participate in any team drills.

Many wonder if Watt would return to practice even without a new contract, considering he doesn’t seem like a player who wouldn’t honor his current contract. However, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN brings up an interesting point about this theory. Even if Watt returns to practice, will the Steelers play him in Buffalo with absolutely no practice reps with the team?

It does seem like a long shot...

Of course, if a deal is done Tuesday, or even Wednesday, and Watt is able to get three practices in with his teammates they would likely give him the green light to play. Not that he would play every snap of the game vs. the Bills, but could still be an impact player. As stated earlier, he has been at every meeting, every practice, and has been working his tail off just not in team drills.

But if he continues to hold out of team drills, you have to wonder if the Steelers would be willing to just thrust him into the lineup. Luckily for the Steelers’ defense, the addition of Melvin Ingram and the second year of Alex Highsmith should help the Steelers pass rush until Watt returns to the team.

This will continue to be a talking point until a deal is, or isn’t done. Mike Tomlin will be addressing the media Tuesday during his usual 12:00 p.m. ET time, and he will likely be addressing this situation. Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for Week 1 of the 2021 regular season.