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T.J. Watt on the pressure of living up to his megadeal: I’m built for this

Mike Florio and Chris Simms analyze the four-year, $112 million extension the Steelers gave T.J. Watt and explore why this was the right move for Pittsburgh, even at the cost of abandoning one of its longstanding rules.

Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt held-in during training camp. He practiced with his teammates for the first time this season on Wednesday, a day before he signed a four-year extension.

Watt may or may not have sat out Sunday’s game without a new deal.

“I’m glad we didn’t get to that point,” Watt said Friday, via Brooke Pryor of ESPN.

Watt not only became the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player with $112 million and a $35 million signing bonus, but he forced the Steelers to change how they do business. Pittsburgh fully guaranteed the first three years of Watt’s deal, a first for the franchise.

So how does Watt live up to the pressures of the record-setting contract?

“Man, I’ve been dealing with pressure my whole life. I’m built for this,” Watt said. “And I truly believe that nothing monetary will change me as a person. The work that I put in will not change. It will only grow.

“It’s my job to prove all these people that have put this amount of money to me and stood on the table to say they want me here, to prove them right. I know I can do it. I know exactly what it takes. I’ve been doing it my whole life. It’s just about continuing to do it and staying hungry. And I guarantee everybody here right now and everybody in this building, I am still hungry.”

Watt, 26, received support from his teammates, including Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Heyward, while missing practice to make a statement. He appreciated their public calls for management to pay Watt his worth.

“When you go through something like this, and you’re trying to stand up for what you believe in and you’re doing it by yourself, having reassurance from the people that you care about their opinion the most means a lot,” Watt said. “There are definitely some moments through this whole process where you do feel like you’re almost by yourself, and that’s why it’s so important that those guys said those nice things.”

Watt made the All-Pro team each of the past two seasons and was third in defensive player of the year voting in 2019 and second last season. He has 29.5 sacks the past two seasons, including an NFL-best 15 in 2020, with 77 quarterback hits, 15 pass breakups, 10 forced fumbles and 23 tackles for loss.