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NFL: Steelers’ T.J. Watt returns to practice

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Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt returned to practice Wednesday as a full participant.

“I thought he looked good,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told reporters afterward. “He was engaged. … He can learn from watching others and it’s evident in watching him work today.”

It’s unclear if his return signals that he has signed an extension that’s expected to make him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL.

His return came a few hours after Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lobbied on his behalf. Roethlisberger implored the Steelers to open the coffers and meet the pass rusher’s contract demands.

“I think T.J. Watt should get whatever the heck he wants. He’s arguably the best football player in the game right now, not just on defense but in general,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday. “I’ve been through a few negotiations here with contracts. One of the reasons was so he could get paid. He deserves every penny that he wants, asks for. T.J. Watt is ‘that guy’ and should get whatever he wants.”

With the Steelers in dire straits against the salary cap, Roethlisberger, 39, took a pay cut to return to the team in 2021.

Watt, 26, had been a participant in team and position meetings but avoided on-field workouts all offseason — until Wednesday.

Tomlin said Tuesday that Watt would practice and be available for the Week 1 game against the Buffalo Bills.

Watt’s physical readiness is not known, but Tomlin voiced optimism he would be ready to play a significant role after leading the NFL with 15 sacks last season. He is a two-time All-Pro.

Reports surfaced Tuesday indicating Watt and the Steelers remained in a staredown over guarantees beyond the first year of the contract.

–Field Level Media

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