PITTSBURGH -- T.J. Watt expressed his joy on Friday that the Steelers deal was done after months of contentious negotiations and a deadline fast approaching.
The 26-year old star edge rusher signed Friday a five year deal with the team to become the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player. According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the new extension of four years is valued at $112 million. It also includes a $35 million signing bonus as well as $80 million guaranteed over three years.
This is the biggest signing bonus in team history.
Watt stated that he has dealt with pressure his whole life and was now trying to cope with the demands of the record-setting deal. "... This is what I was made for. I believe that no amount of money can change my character. It will never change the work I have done. It will only continue to grow. It will only grow.
"It is my responsibility to prove that all those who have given me this much money and stood at the table to tell me they want me there, are right. It's possible, I know. It is something I am familiar with. It's something I have done all my life. It's about staying hungry and continuing to do it. I can assure everyone here and in this building that I am still hungry.
Coach Mike Tomlin was optimistic that a deal would be reached after Friday's practice. He also expressed his delight that it was done before Sunday's Buffalo season opener.
Tomlin stated, "There's a feeling of relief. To be honest with you. We can focus on this. We haven't been there, but I get a lot questions in situations like these and like to put my focus on the Buffalo Bills. He's deserving. We are glad to have him. It's great for everyone involved."
Watt thanked his team for all their support during the entire process, and spoke to the media for first time since the beginning of training camp.
"When you are going through something like this and you are trying to stand for what you believe and you're doing so alone, having the reassurance of people who care the most about your opinion is a huge help.
"There will be moments during this entire process when you feel almost alone. It's important to hear nice things from men.
Watt is hopeful to play Sunday, and he feels "great." Watt worked closely with Steelers' strength- and conditioning staff during training camp. He was mostly working off to the side during team period.
Watt was relieved to be asked if he would have played Sunday without a deal.
He said, "I'm glad that we didn't get there."