(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
The Steelers have still not signed T.J. Watt to a long-term contract extension, however, that can change as soon as today. Mike Tomlin said yesterday that he expects Watt to practice today whether a contract is completed or not.
The Steelers have a long-standing policy of not negotiating contracts after the start of the regular season, but Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted yesterday that the Steelers will sign a player after the start of the season if they had already been negotiating with him, which is the case with Watt.
Ben Roethlisberger spoke with the media today and he strongly advocated for the Steelers to pay Watt handsomely, as the three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker is seeking a contract that will make him the highest paid defensive player in the league.
“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, just in general.”
Roethlisberger took a $5 million pay cut this offseason to help the Steelers out with their dire cap situation, along with giving the organization more freedom to spread money around to other players.
“I’ve been through a few negotiations with contracts,” Roethlisberger said. “One of the reasons I took less money was for guys like him to get paid. He needs to get paid. He deserves every penny that he wants and asks for. T.J. is that guy that should get whatever he wants.”
Roethlisberger, who is in his 18th season with the Steelers, has had his share of contract negotiations, so he's well-versed in how things operate.
“He’s trying to sign his first big deal. He’s the defensive player of the year, he is," Roethlisberger said. "Everyone in this locker room understands and knows that. He should understand and know that. The problem is when you negotiate and do contracts. It’s not always two-sided. When the higher-ups are in charge, there is only so much you can do.”
The clock is ticking for the Steelers to strike a deal with Watt, as if he continues to not practice this week, he'll be out for Sunday's game against the Bills. And all parties are hoping that doesn't occur.
“We all feel bad for T.J. Everyone knows how bad he wants to be out there," Roethlisberger said. "The guy was here every single day when he probably didn’t need to be. Working, busting his butt. He should get taken care of.”