Pittsburgh Steelers expect LB T.J. Watt to practice in full, be available for opener

PITTSBURGH -- Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt will be fully participating in practice for the first time this season. Although the Steelers have not yet reached a deal to sign the All-Pro linebacker with them, Mike Tomlin believes that one will be made.
Tomlin stated that Watt will be a full participant starting Wednesday's practice.

Tomlin stated Tuesday that he remains optimistic that a deal will be reached. "That aside, you'll know that I expect him to work tomorrow. I assume he will work tomorrow. That's the kind of approach I take.

Watt is entering his final year of contract. He has attended all practices through the preseason, but has only participated in individual parts and has not worked in a team setting.

Although the Steelers have had a practice to play policy for a long time, Tomlin refused to give any details about Watt's availability for Sunday's season opening in Buffalo.

Tomlin stated that he hadn't considered a tipping point in terms of participation. "Like I said earlier, like the rest in our organization, I have been optimistic about this whole process.

"And so, because of that optimism I anticipate quality play for him this Saturday and beyond."

Steelers have a long tradition of not negotiating player contracts during the regular season. One year ago, Cameron Heyward was signed by the Steelers to a one-year extension.

Watt's record-setting deal will be complicated by the fact that the Steelers have a history of not guaranteeing any money beyond the signing bonus. The Steelers had previously guaranteed $37.5 million as a signing bonus to Ben Roethlisberger in his April 2019 extension.

Tomlin stated that Watt's unique physical capabilities can allow him to be game ready without having to go through a preseason or training camp.

Tomlin stated, "One thing that I won't do is assume he's normal or regular." "I believe that guys who are in the same position as him have unique talents and skills and they deserve it."

He said Watt's abilities and situation were similar to Aaron Donald. Watt also compared Watt's 2018 holdout when he trained in Pittsburgh instead of joining the Rams for training camp.

Tomlin stated that Tomlin was not surprised by his performance in L.A., performing immediately to an Aaron Donald standard. I think that guys like these guys do things that others cannot. So I have that view on his readiness and the expected quality of his play.

"I've been playing at this level for so many years, so I'm used to seeing exceptional talent rise above adversity and circumstance. I wouldn't lie if I said that I was surprised by [Watt's] inability to perform, and perform well.