Mike Tomlin: T.J. Watt contract standoff ‘not unique’
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt is continuing to sit out team drills, including anything involving hitting, while he and the Steelers attempt to negotiate a long-term contract.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was asked Tuesday if the team finds itself in a unique jam with Watt — who did report to training camp, is attending meetings and is not isolating himself from his teammates.
“Not unique at all really,” Tomlin said. “You know, that negotiation process is going to run its course. Some run their courses faster than others. If I remember correctly, (Pittsburgh defensive tackle) Cam Heyward had less than 100 percent participation when he was in a similar circumstance a short time ago.”
The Watt-Steelers standoff gained some steam when reporters learned from defensive coordinator Keith Butler on Saturday why Watt had not been a full participant.
“That’s none of my business,” Butler said at the time. “I hope he signs a contract, and let’s get it done. When he gets that done, we’ll talk about that.”
In four seasons with the Steelers, Watt, the younger brother of Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt, has started all 62 games in which he has played. He led the NFL in 2020 with 15 sacks and also recorded seven passes defended, two forced fumbles, an interception and 53 tackles.
It was his third straight season of at least 13 sacks. The three-time Pro Bowl selection narrowly lost the Defensive Player of the Year Award to Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who gained 27 votes to Watt’s 20.
Watt, who turns 27 in October, is currently slated to play 2021 on the fifth-year option ($10.09 million) of his rookie contract, which he received for being a first-round pick (No. 30 overall) of the Steelers in 2017.
Earlier this month, team president Art Rooney II said the team hoped to have Watt sign an extension before Week 1. Saying he was “not into the hypotheticals,” Tomlin would not entertain the thought of what might happen if Watt didn’t have a new deal by the regular season.
“I like to focus my energies on the guys who are working, and I’m less concerned about the guys who aren’t, whether it’s contractually-related or injury-related,” Tomlin said. “At this time of the year, I’m all eyes on the guys who are working, and one man’s misfortune or inconvenience is an opportunity for another.”
–Field Level Media