Will the Pittsburgh Steelers have outside linebacker T.J. Watt as a full practice participant starting on Wednesday? Will they have him for Sundays road game against the Buffalo Bills as well? According to what head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday during his weekly press conference, yes is the answer to both of those questions.
As you can imagine, Tomlin was asked a lot of questions about Watt and he first gave an overview on what he expects to happen this week with the starting outside linebacker, who is still attempting to get a long-term contract extension signed before the team’s Week 1 game on Sunday against the Bills.
“Like has been mentioned organizationally here several times in the last several days, it’s my understanding, I remain optimistic that something’s going to get done from a deal perspective,” Tomlin said. “That aside, I’m expecting him [Watt] to work tomorrow. I’m proceeding with the assumption that he’s going to work tomorrow. You know, that’s kind of the approach that I’m taking. He’s missed some time due to obvious reasons, but like I’ve also mentioned over the course of this team development process, I focus very little on those that aren’t working for whatever reason that they’re not working. I tend to focus my energy on those that are.”
Assuming Watt plays on Sunday, will his snaps be limited with him not fully participating in team drills all offseason and through training camp?
“We’ll play it by ear,” Tomlin said. “One thing I’m not going to do is assume that that he’s regular, you know, or normal. I think guys that are in the position that he’s in there, in those positions because of their unique talents and skill set and will, if you will. I remember several years ago, I watched Aaron Donald here in town for the vast majority of July and August when he was in a similar circumstance and I was not surprised when he got to LA and performed immediately to an Aaron Donald standard.
“I think guys like those guys routinely do what others can’t. And so, I kind of have that perspective on his readiness and the anticipated quality of his play. I’ve just been in this game so long at this level, I’m so used to seeing uniquely talented people rise up in the face of adversity or circumstance and exceed it. And so, I’d probably be lying if I told you I would be surprised if he didn’t perform and perform well.”
Tomlin was later asked if it is the assumption that Watt is going to play and going to practice on Wednesday based on conversations that he has with the player and if there is a certain amount that he needs to practice this week to be available on Sunday against the Bills.
“I’ll leave the conversations had between he and I between he and I,” Tomlin said. “I hadn’t thought a lot about a tipping point, if you will, in terms of participation. Like I mentioned earlier, like the rest of our organization, I’ve been optimistic about this process running its course and so because of that optimism, I’m anticipating quality play from him this weekend and beyond.”
Tomlin was then asked to clarify if he expects Watt to do team drills on Wednesday, something he has yet to do this offseason as he waits to hopefully get a new deal finalized.
“You know, I don’t know how more clear I can give it to you,” Tomlin said. “You know, I’m proceeding with the assumption that he’s a full participant and working tomorrow.”
So, now we sit and wait until Wednesday. Will the Steelers get Watt signed to a deal before Wednesdays practice gets underway? We’ll see, but Tomlin sure seems optimistic that a deal will get done with Watt by kickoff on Sunday in Buffalo at the latest. In the meantime, stay tuned for more Watt watch.