The Pittsburgh Steelers seem to always have a top 5 defense.
No matter what, they always have a player or two that is in consideration for Defensive Play of the Year.
During the 2020 season though, T.J. Watt was the Steelers breakout star.
Just to give you an idea of the kind of season T.J. had, let’s take a look at this graphic.
One of these players won DPOTY and the other led the league in almost every major category. TJ Watt got snubbed. Period. pic.twitter.com/uJQUnBXx7N
— Zach Paquette (@Zach_Paquette3) February 7, 2021
I am not going to sit here and explain why Aaron Donald still deserved DPOY, that’s not the point here.
TJ Watt had a hell of a season but when a man goes into a football game knowing he’s going to see this week in and week out and STILL puts up numbers. You have to respect it. pic.twitter.com/YlwN9vcGXt
— Bay Area L.A.B. (@BayAreaLAB) February 7, 2021
The point is to show you the kind of numbers T.J. put up this season and why he was considered a snub by many.
I understand the argument because T.J. was constantly disrupting offenses, even more than what the stats show.
55 pressures most likely resulted in 55 incompletions or at least shorter, dump-off passes.
41 QB hits result in making the QB uncomfortable in the pocket on the ensuing plays.
23 Tackles for loss makes for longer downs and can likely result in punts.
T.J. is an elite pass rusher.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, this means they will need to pay him and it is not going to be cheap.
There are a few things that are going to need to happen if the Steelers want to give T.J. the extension he deserves.
Just so we have a baseline, the highest-paid LB is currently Khalil Mack at $23M a season.
A lot of people are comparing the situation based on how T.J. plays, to Myles Garrett, who makes $25M a season.
Based on both of those numbers, we should expect to see one of two options for his extension:
- 5 years, $125M, $75M guaranteed
- 6 years, $132M, $80M guaranteed
TJ deserves either one of those contracts, but can the Steelers afford it?
With the 2021 salary cap expected to drop to around $180M, the Steelers are projected to be $35M over the cap.
The team also has to deal with 20+ free agents, an aging QB who threw 4 INTs in a playoff game and has a cap hit of $41M.
The Steelers are well aware of this and are already planning to address one of the issues.
— G.T Bobby Thompson (@BThomps81) February 9, 2021
They can restructure Ben Roethlisberger‘s contract so some of it turns into a “signing bonus”.
Some of this year’s cap hit can also be pushed into later seasons, or Big Ben can just take a pay cut (yeah right).
Either way, it seems like there is no chance that Big Ben carries that $41M cap hit into this next season.
Now, it is time to address the free agents.
— BlitzburghUSAVideos (@sdextrasmedia) February 10, 2021
It is always hard to tell a player who is an intricate part of your offense or defense to kick rocks, but the Steelers need to do it.
Here are my suggestions:
- RB James Connor – injury prone and unproductive
- LT Alejandro Villanueva – 33 years old and had an $8.3M cap hit in 2020
- DL Tyson Alualu – 34 years old and had a $2.1M cap hit in 2020
- WR Juju Smith-Schuster – has not proved he can be a WR1 and will cost you around $16-$18M a season
This does not fix their entire situation, but it is a great starting point.
What if there was a way to keep most of the team together in 2021?
You don’t extend TJ Watt!
There are no other LBs or DEs on the market that are going to get paid this offseason that will reset the market like Garrett did.
The Steelers can continue to tag EDGE Bud Dupree and see if he can survive a season without an injury and let TJ play on his 5th-year option.
If this was a normal season coming up, I would say go ahead and extend him, but the cap is going to be around $180M.
It makes no sense to try and get this deal done this offseason.
Bring T.J. into the front office, explain the situation, and guarantee him a nice paycheck in 2022.
Maybe he can win DPOY this season and drive his price up further, we know he is motivated!
— TJ Watt (@_TJWatt) February 7, 2021