The Pittsburgh Steelers are trying to work out a contract extension with T.J. Watt prior to the start of the regular season, and Ben Roethlisberger has a message for the team: Pay the man.
While speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Roethlisberger said the Steelers need to stop playing hardball and pay Watt “whatever the heck he wants.” Roethlisberger, who restructured his own contract this offseason, says he agreed to take less money so teammates like Watt could be paid what they deserve.
“He’s arguably the best football player in the game right now, not just on defense, just in general,” Roethlisberger said, per ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. “One of the reasons I took less money was for guys like him to get paid, and he needs to get paid. He deserves every penny that he wants and asks for. T.J. Watt is that guy that should get whatever he wants.”
The Steelers have an unofficial policy in which they only guarantee signing bonuses in contracts. They are typically willing to restructure deals to give players more guarantees, but they usually provide no guarantees beyond the first year of a new deal. Watt, like others before him, is trying to break that trend.
“There’s a lot of young guys who don’t understand the process because they haven’t been through it,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s why I think I’m able to speak with T.J. a little bit and talk to him. But the feeling in the room is that we all know how great he is and what he deserves.”
Pittsburgh’s unwillingness to guarantee money beyond the first year is one of the reasons Le’Veon Bell held out for a season and left the team. The Steelers certainly don’t want that to happen with Watt, who led the NFL with 15 sacks last season.
It’s unclear how close Watt and the Steelers are to a new deal. There was optimism last month that he was on the verge of becoming the highest-paid defensive player in football, but the latest report made it sound like things are trending in the wrong direction.