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What's the holdup with T.J. Watt's contract? Steelers are frugal when it comes to guaranteed money

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

As of writing this on Monday night, the Steelers have still somehow not come to terms on signing T.J. Watt to a long-term contract extension. The Steelers' Week 1 game against the Bills is on Sunday, and Watt has yet to practice with the team during 11-on-11 sessions.

The Steelers also have a long-time policy of not negotiating contracts during the season. So yeah, the clock is ticking.

Steelers spokesperson Burt Lauten told reporters on Monday that Watt's status in regards to being a full participant at practice was unchanged from training camp. Mike Tomlin will address the situation tomorrow during his press conference for the game against the Bills, which will be interesting if a deal isn't done by then. The longer it drags out, Watt might not even play on Sunday against the Bills.

The main holdup with Watt's contract being completed most likely has to do with the guaranteed aspect, as the Steelers normally don't backload guarantees in the contract. It's all up front. The Steelers are one of the few teams left in the league that does this, and really, it's an outdated process and it should be re-evaluated.

Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett both got their long-term deals done before the first preseason game last year. The fact that it’s taking this long to get something done with Watt is somewhat concerning, but the Steelers do have a long history of getting contracts done a few days or even hours before the start of the season.

Garrett signed a five year, $125 million contract extension with the Browns, and received $50 million in full guarantees at signing and $100 million is guaranteed in total.

Bosa received a five-year extension worth $135 million, from the Chargers, which includes $78 million guaranteed at signing and $102 million overall. Watt should get something in that range, or even surpass Bosa. It's all what the Steelers are guaranteeing Watt, however.

Watt's situation though is a little different compared to past Steelers players who got deals done late in the process, as he hasn't participated in 11-on-11 sessions or played in any preseason games. Watt is a phenomenal athlete and is in superb shape, but defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach Keith Butler has expressed concern about Watt being in "hitting shape" for the Week 1 game against the Bills.

Watt's deal should be done in the next day or two, but if not by Thursday, I'd be concerned about Watt's status for the game against Buffalo, as Mike Tomlin tends to not play players in games if they haven't practiced during the week.

Regardless, the Steelers are getting down to the wire here with Watt's deal, which is normally how they do business. They're close-fisted when it comes to guaranteed money.

Players and the NFLPA are wiser now and realize that they have a short timespan to cash in. Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to injuries. We unfortunately saw that with Ryan Shazier when he suffered a career-ending spinal injury in 2017. Players deserve every right to earn guaranteed money. And Watt deserves every penny, just look at his production in his first four years in the league. It's time for the Steelers to honor that.

It would honestly be embarrassing for the organization if they don't get anything done with Watt and he misses Sunday's game and is left making just a little over $10 million on the fifth-year option. Yeah, that's a ton of money in real-life terms, but in the NFL that would be a slap in the face by the Steelers to Watt with the type of numbers he has produced.

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