PITTSBURGH (AP) – Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker TJ Watt enters the final year of his contract. The two-time all-pro said he never thought of holding out in hopes of a long-term deal.
“I love this team, I love all the coaches and this staff and the players,” said Watt. “I’m looking forward to this season and that’s why I’m here.”
Watt has remained a mother through the state of his negotiations. Team officials have previously expressed an interest in signing Watts, but according to a longstanding team policy, the Steelers do not negotiate contracts at the start of the regular season.
Watt did not raise any concerns. Instead, he focuses on the first week of training camp at the team facility in Pittsburgh.
“I love Pittsburgh,” said Watt. “I would like to be here. All of these decisions are not mine. I’m here right now and do my best every day. “
Watt led the league with 15 sacks last season but finished second to Los Angeles Rams Defensive Tackle’s Aaron Donald for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. Watt said he wasn’t using his second place finish against Donald as additional motivation for this season. That is the past for him.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Watt. “Winning the Super Bowl is the only thing that, by and large, really matters. I’m getting out of here, I love football and I try to get better every day. There are so many aspects of my game that need work. Learning and improving my game is what I’m looking forward to the most this season. “
Watt became the third player since 2006 – alongside Donald and his older brother JJ Watt – to score at least 15 sacks, 23 tackles for loss and 40 quarterback hits in one season, all signs that led the league. Watt joined the Pro Football Hall of Famers Reggie White and Derrick Thomas as the only player to receive at least 13 sacks in three of his first four seasons since 1982, when the single sack became an official NFL statistic.
Watt is entering his fifth NFL season and is one of the longest-serving members of the Steelers defense. He was named defensive captain for the first time in 2020 and became the first defensive player to be named team MVP in two years since James Harrison.
Steeler’s defensive coordinator Keith Butler has watched Watt grow into one of the leaders.
“He’s a good player,” said Butler. “He just doesn’t talk about it, he does it in the field. If he can make it on the field, he’ll get a lot more respect from his teammates. He’s a quiet guy, but he’s a confident guy about what he does. “
Watt teamed up with Bud Dupree to form one of the best pass-rushing tandems in 2020 as the Steelers led the league in sacks for the fourth straight season. Dupree ruptured his cruciate ligament mid-season and then signed with Tennessee in Free Agency, leaving a void over Watts on defense.
Rookie Alex Highsmith stepped in after Dupree’s injury and made five starts while getting two sacks and an interception. The Steelers also added depth by signing nine-year veteran Melvin Ingram prior to the start of training camp. Ingram, a three-time pro bowler, has 49 career sacks and is expected to add to the mix, helping to spell Watts, who played 83% of the team’s defensive snaps last season.
“You always want three guys to play,” said Butler. “We did that last year. We think we now have three who will be able to play for us so we can rest for each other. “
Watt welcomed deep into the Steelers’ rotation as the outside linebacker. He is also happy with his current status.
“There’s so much meat left on the bone knowing there are a lot of repetitions and situations that I wish I could have come back to and performed better,” he said. “I’m just trying to put the work in and hope it pays off.”
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