Mike Tomlin felt optimism this week a deal would get done with TJ Watt. Now, he can feel relief. Watt officially signed his mega, four-year, $112 million extension this morning, locking him up in Pittsburgh long-term. Now his and the team’s focus and energy can be on the task at hand, beating the Buffalo Bills Sunday afternoon.
Speaking to reporters earlier today, Tomlin reacted to the news.
“There’s a sense of relief to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin told reporters in video courtesy of the team. “We can get focused on this. And not that we haven’t been. But in circumstances like this, I field a bunch of questions regarding it. I like to focus my energies on the Buffalo Bills. And so [Watt’s] deserving, we’re glad to have him. It’s good for all parties involved.”
Watt will continue to lead a front seven that needs to be the strength of the team. Pittsburgh’s secondary has new faces following offseason losses of Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton. Offensively, even Ben Roethlisberger admitted they’re likely to deal with growing pains of a new coordinator and brand new front five. That makes guys like Watt stepping up all the more important, especially versus the Bills who boast one of the NFL’s top offenses.
The question now is how much Watt will play. He only began practicing in team sessions this Wednesday. Presuming the team didn’t go full-pads, full-tackling these last 24 hours, the next tackle Watt records will be his first since January 10th, the team’s playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns.
But Tomlin, unflappable as always, isn’t concerned.
“Like I told you guys earlier in the week, I don’t have any reservations about his participation. I expect him to be TJ Watt.”
For the Steelers sake, let’s hope he is out of the gate. Watt and the Steelers’ pass rush has been neutralized in their last two meetings against the Bills. Watt’s yet to record a sack and Josh Allen has been taken down just twice in two games, a far cry from what Pittsburgh is normally able to do to quarterbacks. The Bills do a good job of chipping, helping, and widening alignments to avoid 1v1 battles against their OTs. If Pittsburgh wants to turn the tide and win this game, they’ll need to generate a lot more pressure than they have.