Steelers must pony up and pay T.J. Watt without delay

T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

While there appears to be better news on the Steelers’ impasse with EDGE T.J. Watt, the right thing to do is to pay him his deserved money.

The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t want to go down the dangerous road of losing out on a Hall of Fame-caliber player because they wanted to keep the pocketbooks heavy.

And while a fully guaranteed fifth-year option is nice on a rookie contract, it doesn’t offer much long term with regards to job security, and it’s safe to say EDGE T.J. Watt has vastly outplayed the rookie deal he’s currently on, worth $9.3 million annually.

Let’s do a little Football 101 here.

A quarterback is the No. 1 most important position on the field. So, in terms of preventing an opposing quarterback from doing his job well, it’s usually a good idea to have both good cover defenders and pass-rushers to make that sort of thing happen.

And Watt, a back-to-back first-team All-Pro, has done that arguably better than anyone else at his position the last two years.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise Watt has been trying to negotiate a new deal. Sure, it would be much more refreshing to have him 100-percent committed to playing this season, but the business side of football matters, too, even if it can strain the relationship between team and player.

In Pittsburgh’s case, however, Watt will be worth every penny and then some.

What Steelers can expect to pay T.J. Watt on a new contract

Prolific pass-rushers aren’t cheap. And from a defensive standpoint (refer back to the Football 101 class you just took), outside pass-rushers typically command near quarterback-like contracts if they’re in the upper echelon of defenders, which Watt certainly is.

Market value matters, too, and Over the Cap valued Watt’s 2020 efforts at nearly $23.5 million, while’s market-value tool suggests Watt is worth a new deal at five years, $27.7 million annually.

That would pay Watt $700,000 more per year than the top-paid EDGE, the Los Angeles ChargersJoey Bosa, but that’s effectively what the market dictates.

Remember, premier pass-rushers aren’t cheap.

Steelers expecting T.J. Watt back for Week 1?

With Pittsburgh gearing up for its season opener on the road against the Buffalo Bills, one of the major questions was going to be whether or not Watt would return to the field while worrying about his contract situation at another time.

Well, at least in parallel but not in a way that impacts the Steelers defense in a high-profile game that could help tip the balance of power within the AFC.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, head coach Mike Tomlin offered a small glimmer of hope for Watt’s status, both in terms of his availability and eventual contract negotiations:

"I remain optimistic that something’s going to get done from a deal perspective. That aside, I’m expecting [Watt] to work tomorrow. I’m proceeding with the assumption that he’s going to work tomorrow. That’s the approach I’m taking. He’s missed some time due to obvious reasons, but like I’ve also mentioned, over the course of this team development process, I focus very little on those that aren’t working, for whatever reason that they’re not working."

Watt sat out both the preseason and missed practice time leading up to Week 1, so it’s unclear just how much time he’ll need to get his proverbial football legs back underneath him.

That said, having Watt on the field will be one of Pittsburgh’s primary focal points.

And if it takes the final steps of a contract extension to make it happen, the Steelers’ best interests would include putting together whatever kind of deal needed to satisfy one of the NFL’s leading defenders.

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