Steelers, Watt agree to lucrative extension


PITTSBURGH (AP) – Ben Roethlisberger believes T.J. Watt is perhaps the best player in the NFL.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have decided to pay the game-wrecking outside linebacker like it.

A person with knowledge of the agreement says the team and the two-time All-Pro have come to terms on a four-year extension worth $112 million that will make Watt the highest-paid defensive player in the league. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the financial terms were not publicly announced.

The deal was first reported by NFL Network.

Watt, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, will be paid an average of $28 million a season over the course of the extension, which exceeds the $27 million annually made by Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa.

The agreement also ends any speculation about the team’s long-term plans for Watt and clears up his availability for Sunday’s season opener in Buffalo.

Watt did not practice during 11-on-11 drills with the first-team defense until this week after choosing to sit out all four preseason contests and work on individual drills during training camp.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Wednesday that Watt “looked good” while hitting in pads, though defensive coordinator Keith Butler cautioned there’s a difference between being in cardiovascular shape and “hitting shape.”

“I think we’ve got to be careful about how many plays he plays,” Butler said Thursday. “He’s a veteran. He knows how he feels. He knows how he’s going to feel when he starts playing and stuff like that. We’ve just got to be smart enough to know how much is too much and how much is too little.”

The extension alleviates any concern about the team potentially losing Watt at some point down the road.

The Steelers have a policy of not negotiating contracts once the season starts, meaning the window to get something done before was closing.

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