Steelers’ Mike Tomlin expects T.J. Watt to face Bills, remains optimistic a new deal will get done

Written by on September 7, 2021

Despite reports of a possible holdout, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said that he anticipates T.J. Watt being a full participant during Wednesday’s practice. Tomlin said he also expects to have Watt at his disposal when the Steelers face the Bills in Week 1 of the regular season. 

The Steelers’ All-Pro outside linebacker has done individual but no team drills throughout the summer. Watt is seeking a longterm contract as he is currently playing under the fifth-year option. He continued to skip out on team drills on Monday, which only added to the rumblings of a possible holdout. 

“I remain optimistic something is going to get done on a deal perspective,” Tomlin said of the situation, via WXPI’s Jenna Harner. “I’m proceeding with the assumption he’s going to work tomorrow and he gets to add his talents to that collection.”

Tomlin is not worried about Watt not being in game shape after not taking part in team drills. He compared Watt to reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, who trained extensively in Pittsburgh (his hometown) before signing a longterm deal in 2018. Donald won his second of three Defensive Player of the Year awards that season while helping the Rams reach the Super Bowl

If Watt can’t play as much as usual, Tomlin said he has “no reservations” as it relates to Melvin Ingram getting more reps against the Bills. Tomlin has spoken glowingly of Ingram since the Steelers signed him in July. 

“I’ve just been excited about getting to know him as a player and looking at his skill set and figuring out ways that we can infuse him into what it is that we do,” Tomlin said of Ingram back on Aug. 10. “It’s been a fun process. He’s a football lover. He’s a competitor. He likes to work. He’s been fitting in nicely with the guys. It’s been a fun process.”

The 30th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Watt finished second to Donald in the Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2020. The league’s leader in sacks last season, Watt has been a Pro Bowler each of the past three seasons. Watt’s 49.5 sacks since 2017 is the third-highest total in the NFL over that span, behind only Donald and Chandler Jones

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