EDITOR’S NOTE: The Pittsburgh Steelers and T.J. Watt agreed to a four year, $112 million mega-deal on Thursday afternoon, ending their contract standoff. That sets up Buffalo’s Week 1 opponent to have a full complement of defenders when the Bills host them on Sunday. The article below contains the prior context of the situation, which impacted the Bills’ game plan for their Week 1 opponent.
If there’s any reason for the Buffalo Bills to be nervous about their season opener, it would come down to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense. Last year, the Steelers held the Bills to three points and forced two turnovers at the halfway point of their game, but the Bills found new life in scoring 17 points on offense to close out their win. The Bills are still expected to be one of the league’s elite offenses, and the Steelers still hope to be one of the league’s elite defenses.
Of course, Pittsburgh’s defense relies heavily on the contributions of All-Pro linebacker T.J. Watt. Watt had 15 sacks, 41 QB hits, 23 TFLs, and seven passes defended last season for the Steelers. If he plays, he’s a one-man wrecking crew in the trenches, the perfect pairing for roving enforcer Minkah Fitzpatrick in the defensive backfield. But a contract dispute has kept Watt from fully participating in practice this summer, and it was raising questions about whether Watt would even play this weekend.
Nothing spurs action quite like a looming deadline, though, and it seems like the two sides may be approaching a compromise when it counts. For the first time this year, Watt was a full participant in Steelers practice on Wednesday. NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport added today that, while nothing is close, the two sides are talking ahead of Pittsburgh’s self-imposed deadline of Saturday.
Even if Watt does end up playing this weekend, though, it sounds like the Steelers will hold him to a snap count as they work him back into the lineup.