The Pittsburgh Steelers and All-Pro linebacker T.J. Watt seem to be at an impasse of sorts in their contract negotiations. Throughout the entire offseason the two sides have been in negotiations as they hope to iron out a deal which would extend Watt not just beyond his 5th year option, but to keep him in black and gold for a long time.
Tuesday Mike Tomlin held his weekly press conference as the team prepares for the Buffalo Bills Sunday in Week 1 of the regular season, and he said he was “optimistic” a deal gets done prior to the season opener. He also added he expects Watt to return to practice Wednesday with the first official practice of the work week.
Wednesday is the day when the media can pepper quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with questions, and of course the Watt contract negotiations was a talking point. Roethlisberger spoke candidly about what the Steelers should do, and he didn’t mince his words.
Here is what he had to say:
“I think T.J. should get whatever the heck he wants. He’s arguably the best football player, in the game right now. Not just on defense, but in general. I’ve been through three negotiations here with contracts, and one of the reasons why I took less money is for guys like him to get paid. He needs to get paid. He deserves every penny he wants and asks for. T.J. Watt is that guy that should get whatever he wants.”
Here is video of Roethlisberger’s answer, via Brooke Pryor of ESPN:
Ben Roethlisberger sending a pretty clear message to the Steelers front office: give TJ Watt everything he wants and give it to him now. pic.twitter.com/IJAtU49CPb— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) September 8, 2021
Roethlisberger is in a unique situation, one only few others on the current 53-man roster can speak from. And that would be his experience in these contract negotiations with the Steelers’ front office. Roethlisberger understands what the Steelers want, and also knows the organization cannot afford to even considering letting a player like Watt even smell the free agent market.
How much clout does Roethlisberger have within the front office? That is debatable, but when he mentions how he took less money to return in 2021, it was so the organization wouldn’t have to part ways with players like Watt.
Unlike other players in the past, Watt has been a regular throughout training camp and the preseason. He hasn’t missed a practice, meeting or game. He just hasn’t participated in team drills. According to Roethlisberger that should tell you a lot about Watt’s desire to stay in Pittsburgh.
More Roethlisberger on Watt: "when you negotiate a new contract, it’s 2sided. When the higher ups are in charge, there’s only so much you can do. We all feel bad for TJ. .. He was here every single day& he didn’t need to be, working, busting his butt. He should get taken care of"— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) September 8, 2021
The Steelers typically don’t negotiate contracts once the regular season begins, which means the clock is ticking on getting a deal done prior to the team traveling to Buffalo for their first game of the 2021 regular season. In a perfect world a deal would get done prior to practice Wednesday, and all of this would become a moot point. However, it has become a waiting game.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the upcoming game vs. Buffalo.
For more information on the stalemate between Watt and the Steelers, check out the latest “Let’s Ride” podcast below: