2021 South Side Questions: Will T.J. Watt Practice Today?

T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 28-0 first quarter.

They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson. They’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom look to be in a starting role (or complementary role in Freiermuth’s case) for the season opener.

There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. They have a 53-man roster, though it will always change to some degree. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.

Question: Will T.J. Watt practice today?

At the risk of there being a late-night deal reached before this article publishes and rendering it moot (I’m writing this at about 1 a.m. EST), let’s talk about T.J. Watt and the standard weekly practice regimen. During the standard regular-season week, the team will begin to practice on Wednesday. If Watt practices today, he will have a full week of on-field work in time for the season opener.

I have previously told one person on here that my extreme confidence that the Steelers and Watt would get a deal done wouldn’t even begin to be questioned until Wednesday at the earliest. It would seem like a reasonable soft deadline for the two sides to get something done by the first ‘official’ practice of sorts—you know, the day head coach Mike Tomlin finally has to actually answer questions about injuries and release an injury report. This is that day.

So what’s the deal? Watt is, of course, under contract. This is in many ways the first official practice of the regular season. Will he practice as a full participant? Tomlin said that he is proceeding with the expectation that he would be.

If Watt doesn’t have a new deal before practice starts, though, or at least a level of comfort that it’s right at the finish line, then his expectations might be subverted. From Watt’s perspective, it wouldn’t seem to make a lot of sense to suddenly start practicing in full now after all this time with respect to the negotiations.

Of course, if his focus simply shifts to football and getting ready for the reps that actually matter, and given that he is, in fact, under contract, he could just decide to practice anyway, even without extreme confidence that a deal is pending, or even already completed. We’ll know for sure in a few hours.

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