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Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt was a participant at practice today for the first time this season.
Watt is currently wrapped up in a contract dispute with Pittsburgh, upset over the amount of guaranteed money that he will get. The result is soured negotiations that had left the Steelers wondering if Watt would show.
However, head coach Mike Tomlin reiterated today during his post-practice presser that he is under the assumption that Watt will play in the season opener this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.
“I thought he looked good,” Tomlin said. “He’s been a full participant in walk-throughs. He’s a smart guy. He can learn from watching others and it was evident in watching him work today.”
Watt, 26, has been a force since entering the league in 2017, racking up 49.5 sacks, including a league leading 15.0 last season.
While the offseason has been foggy for Watt, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger came to his aide on Wednesday, revealing just how valuable Watt is to the team.
“I think T.J. should get whatever the heck he wants,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s arguably the best football player in the game right now, not just on defense.”
Roethlisberger has been privy to his share of contract negotiations throughout his career. That includes this season, when Roethlisberger took a $5 million pay cut to return to the Steelers for his 18th season under center.
“I’ve been through a few negotiations here with contracts, and one of the reasons I took less money is for guys like him to get paid,” Roethlisberger said. “He deserves every penny he asks for. T.J. is that guy who should get whatever he wants.”
Perhaps most excited to see Watt return is former Wisconsin teammate and offseason acquisition, linebacker Joe Schobert. Schobert joked about a move he taught Watt, before saying he was looking forward to taking the field with him once again.
“It’s funny, I always tell people he was my backup in college and I taught him one move — the chop-dip,” Schobert said. “And I’ve never seen him use the chop-dip. He has his own thing and he’s taken it way further than I ever took it. It’s good to be back with him.”
Watt figures to get a hefty raise when he signs his new deal, whoever it’s with. The highest paid edge defender in the NFL currently is Joey Bosa of the Los Angeles Chargers. Bosa signed a five-year, $135 million extension in Aug. 2020.