J.J. Watt’s made it clear. He’s retired. He loves Steelers Nation but he’s not playing for Steelers Nation this year. Watt shot down weeks of speculation about a potential return to the NFL, telling Pardon My Take he has no intentions of coming back to the league in 2023.
“I will not be playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Watt told the show. “I will be going to a game to Heinz Field to watch my brother play.”
Though he has the Yinzer language down, still calling it “Heinz Field” and even mentioning the ketchup bottles returning, his only trip to the stadium will be as a fan, not to play.
Rumors have persisted about Watt donning the black and gold to play with his brother, T.J. Fuel had been added to the fire in recent weeks after a back-and-forth with Mike Tomlin, who extended an invite to Watt to come to the team facility after Watt complimented him on being a great coach and leader.
More recently, Ike Taylor floated the idea of Watt staying by his phone in case the team gives him a call sometime this year. While it seemed like just speculation, Taylor is a member of the organization, an assistant scout, and his words carried extra weight.
Watt, 34, is coming off a 12.5 sack season for the Arizona Cardinals, but he decided to hang up his cleats and pursue other aspects of his life. He’s now a dad and gotten into soccer, becoming minority owner of the Burnley Soccer Club.
While Watt might be breaking Steelers fans hearts with the news, he made sure to praise their fandom.
“The Steelers fans are literally one of the best fan bases I’ve ever witnessed in my life,” he said. “Everywhere I go, ‘Hey, I love you but I’m a huge Steelers’ fan so I love your brother. Come to the Steelers. We love Pittsburgh.’ It’s unbelievable.”
Watt said he hasn’t trained intensely enough to even think about getting back into the NFL. Though he’s posted videos of him lifting, conditioning is another factor and he told the show he hasn’t run in months.
“For me to play this season, I would have to be training right now,” he said. “If I went out there to play right now, my body it would not perform. I have not run since the last game of the season. I could not physically do it.”
Despite Watt’s strong denial, the rumors probably aren’t going to end. If the Steelers can make a playoff push, a suggestion of Watt joining the team late in the year will inevitably pop back up. But for now, Watt’s made his stance crystal clear.