The Pittsburgh Steelers voted on five players to be their team captains in 2020. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and center Maurkice Pouncey represented the offense. Defensive lineman Cameron Heyward and outside linebacker T.J. Watt were voted captains of the defense. Safety Jordan Dangerfield was their special teams captain.
Of the five, only Roethlisberger and Heyward retain their captaincy entering the 2021 season, as voted on by their peers. Pouncey is retired, while Dangerfield was not retained (he was replaced as special teams captain by Derek Watt).
As for T.J., for whatever the reason, he was not voted a captain this year. And that’s all we know. He wasn’t voted captain. We don’t know if he was eligible to be voted captain. All head coach Mike Tomlin would offer on the matter during his Wednesday comments was that “those guys vote and their votes speak. I’m not interested in interpreting it. I just report the news”.
Is it news that Watt is not a team captain? Does it matter? Does it signal anything? I would think not. The number of captains can vary year to year, certainly. They could simply have wanted to just have one captain per phase this year, and Heyward is unquestionably the captain of the defense.
When Tomlin said that he wasn’t interested in interpreting the news, you knew what he meant: The media is going to interpret for him, and he’s going to ignore it. With that said, it’s hard for me to imagine that there is anything that ought to be read into this, at least from the perspective of it being reflective of a dissatisfaction with his approach to his contract.
To a man, every person in the organization, from player to coach, has voiced support for Watt, who has been a regular presence in every aspect of the team outside of specific on-field practice work. The players all certainly understand; they’re all trying to get paid, as well. Some, like Heyward and Joe Haden, have been down this road.
For about the past 25 years or so, Pittsburgh has had a policy they have tried to maintain in which they refrain from negotiating on contracts during the regular season. They’ve held true to this for a while now, even if it meant getting Troy Polamalu’s contract signed on the plane ride over to the opener.
The Steelers still have a few days to get things done with Watt, and one thinks that, if it really is going to get done, then it’s very nearly there. It’s just some last-minute pushing and shoving between the sides about the finer points of the contract, and how the team handles its contracts.