Jun 15, 2021; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) participates in drills during minicamp held at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to T.J. Watt, there is little debate over whether or not he’s among the best linebackers in the NFL. The only question is exactly how much he’s worth to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

With 29.5 sacks in the last two seasons, Watt has anchored the Steelers’ defense. But as he entered the 2021 NFL season in the final year of his contract, he has pulled back during preseason practices, only participating in individual portions while he waits for the team to sign him to a new contract. Because Pittsburgh has had a longstanding practice-to-play policy, it’s thrown things into doubt as to whether or not Watt will play in Week One.

Regardless of whether he plays, the Steelers have a decision to make and need to make it soon. And even Ben Roethlisberger, the longtime quarterback who is the face of the franchise, made it clear what the franchise needs to do.

“I think T.J. should get whatever the heck he wants,” Roethlisberger said on Wednesday. “He’s arguably the best football player in the game right now, not just on defense, just in general.

“One of the reasons I took less money was for guys like him to get paid, and he needs to get paid. He deserves every penny that he wants and asks for. T.J. Watt is that guy that should get whatever he wants.”

Roethlisberger, who is 39, has said he’s willing to take less money in order to see Pittsburgh take care of guys like Watt. Doing so only makes it easier for him and the Steelers to compete for another Super Bowl.

Big Ben does understand that there are two sides to every contract negotiation.

“The problem is, when you negotiate a new contract, it’s two-sided,” Roethlisberger said. “When the bosses and higher-ups are in charge, there’s only so much you can do.

“So we all feel bad for T.J. Everyone knows how bad he wants to be out there. He was here every single day and he didn’t need to be, working, busting his butt. He should get taken care of.”


About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.