The Pittsburgh Steelers signed fullback Derek Watt to a three-year contract worth nearly $10 million in 2020. It made him the second-highest-paid fullback in the league at the time. Why? To hear some tell it, it was part of some elaborate ruse to coax T.J. Watt to sign long-term in Pittsburgh—as if $112 million, including $80 million fully guaranteed, the most ever given to a defender at the time—wasn’t incentive enough.
I might point out that the contract was signed last year and yet Derek is still here. But I digress. The conversation about his compensation, albeit frequently thrown off-track by misunderstandings of the salary cap, is a legitimate one. And that’s largely because the team is essentially paying him to be a top-shelf special-teams ace, with very little role on offense. That’s not by his wishes or designs, by any means.
“Definitely try to make the most of it when I get in”, he recently told Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette regarding his offensive playing time in an article that ran this morning. “I’m a good fullback and try to do what I can on offense when my number is called. I don’t control when I’m in or out of the game. When I’m out there, I’ve got to try to make the most of them and earn a few more that way”.
But ultimately he knows where his bread is buttered. And apparently, it’s never been veiled to him. As he told Cook, “I was brought in here as one of the best special teamers”. And that’s of course what we said when they first signed him. It’s a high-end but not unreasonable price for a 300-plus-snap top four-phase special-teams contributor, in which argument he has placed himself.
Despite that, his contract, which based on per-year average works out to under 1.5 percent of the total 2022 salary cap, has been the frequent source of ire for Steelers fans, some more than others. In a vacuum, it’s probably easy for most to digest, but the cumulative number of multi-million contracts the team does have on the books for players who are primarily special teamers does start to add up.
That’s not Watt’s problem, however, nor is the perception of the fans or what radio shock-jock-equivalent sports pundits might have to say. Because apparently, he does hear the stuff that’s out there. But he’s a dad. He’s got bigger fish to fry than angry fans on the internet who want him to make less money. “I’m not worried about what people think about how much I make”, he told Cook. “I didn’t control what I got. I’m here. That’s not my problem to deal with”.
I realize this is going to affirm my status as public enemy number two (right behind Derek) when it comes to those who simply can’t stomach his contract anymore, but as far as I’m aware, this is the first time Watt has ever talked about this subject. Given that he’s been here for two and a half years, that’s a long time simmering.