I believe it was a year ago at this time that I wrote almost the exact same headline, only it was about Diontae Johnson and his decision to skip the beginning portion of OTAs.
People were in a frenzy, and when I say, “people,” I mean, “fans.” Why were people upset about Johnson skipping the first round of OTAs? Because this was reportedly due to frustration over a lack of a new contract.
I’ve discovered something over the years as it pertains to the fans and their outrage over a player skipping OTAs: There are acceptable reasons to skip OTAs, and there are unacceptable reasons to skip OTAs.
If it’s for personal reasons, that’s acceptable. If it’s just Troy (Polamalu) being Troy, that’s acceptable. However, if skipping is used as leverage for a new contract, that’s unacceptable. If it’s a receiver who skips OTAs for any reason, that’s also unacceptable.
Enough about that.
So, I was listening to the PM Show on 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday when it was revealed to me that T.J. Watt, the Steelers' very best player and $30-million man, was not at the team’s facilities for the first day of OTAs.
I was like, “Yes! Finally, a reason to get up on Wednesday morning and write an article!”
The “P” in the PM Team, Andrew Fillipponi, did what he normally does in these situations: He criticized Watt’s decision to not be there and did so in an over-the-top diatribe that would have made Bobby “The Brain” Heenan proud.
I was hoping this would lead to more outrage by the fans, if not against Watt, at least directed toward Fillipponi for going on the attack against No. 90. Either way, it would have led to a few days of spicy radio and headlines.
The outrage from the fans really hasn’t been there, though. Why is that? I guess this means Watt falls into one or both of the acceptable categories when it comes to any player skipping OTAs.
I would normally call fans hypocrites for not spewing more venom over Watt skipping (at minimum) the first day of OTAs, but as a longtime advocate for players being able to do whatever they want when it comes to these supposed voluntary workouts, it is my duty to defend the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year just as aggressively as I did Johnson last May.
If the Steelers and the rest of the NFL teams want their players to show up for these Organized Team Activities, make it a priority when negotiating the next CBA.
Demand nothing less.
Insist that no deal will be done until “voluntary” is changed to “mandatory.” Otherwise, everyone just needs to shut the hell up about it.
I don’t want to hear about how much Watt is making, and that he should lead by example.
In a way, Watt is leading by example. He’s teaching his younger teammates the true definitions of “voluntary” and “mandatory.”
I know what you’re going to say, “If I did that at my job...” OK, name the last time your boss put pressure on you to show up to something that was voluntary. If you do have an actual example, you shouldn’t be on some Steelers site arguing with a quasi lawyer, you should file a lawsuit against your company or at least speak to HR.
To reiterate, I defend all players when it comes to these annual OTAs.
I stick up for the unpopular players who get chastised by the fans for being “selfish.” I also stick up for the popular players who fans make excuses for in these situations. (“Watt’s got nothing to prove. He doesn’t need to be there. This is just the media trying to stir the pot!”)
I’ll probably write another article just like this one next May. Maybe you’ll be in an uproar over a player skipping OTAs, maybe you’ll defend his decision.
Either way, that player will still have every right to not be there.