(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt has yet to participate in practice since the beginning of training camp in late July, as he's looking to get a long-term extension done with the organization. In the meantime, he has participated in individual drills. Just not when the Steelers go to 11-on-11.
Watt's conditioning should not be a concern whatsoever, but defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach Keith Butler is a little worried about his hitting shape.
"I think he'll be ready cardiovascularly," Butler said of Watt. "The only way you can dadgum get in hitting shape is you gotta hit. And if you don't get the hitting in before the first (regular-season) game, then we gotta be careful how we use him and make sure we keep him healthy as much as we can.
"The biggest thing for me is, the hitting-shape part of it. You can't duplicate that until you put the pads on and go out and play. And he hasn't done that yet."
It's a little surprising that Watt and the Steelers haven't reached a deal yet. However, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Watt should receive a contract extension shortly after the Carolina game that will make him the league's highest-paid defensive player.
If that is the case, Watt would have two weeks to get in hitting shape before the Steelers take on the Bills on Sept. 12 at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park N.Y.