J.J. Watt Might Not Come To Pittsburgh

Getting a third Watt brother would be a dream, but dreams often don’t come true.

Oliver Hinson

J.J. Watt is one of the best pass-rushers in NFL history, and he is undoubtedly the most coveted free agent of the 2021 offseason. Nearly every team has shown interest in him, including our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. Of course, we have the slight edge that is T.J. and Derek Watt. With both of his brothers already in the black and gold, the eldest brother has to be somewhat compelled to keep it in the family and give the NFL its first 3-brother trio. However, that’s where our bargaining power ends, mainly because of one inconvenient truth: the Steelers need J.J. Watt more than he will ever need them. Let’s break down why this is true.


Reason #1: The Steelers’ roster is slowly falling apart

There’s no easy way to put it. Free agency is going to be a nightmare for Pittsburgh. With a plethora of stars that we can no longer afford to pay, the franchise is likely to enter a rebuilding phase sooner rather than later. Juju Smith-Schuster, James Conner, and Bud Dupree will most definitely sign elsewhere this offseason. Tyson Alualu, Cameron Sutton, Mike Hilton, Matt Feiler, and Alejandro Villanueva are all free agents whose price tags will certainly rise. We lost Maurkice Pouncey and Vance McDonald to retirement, with Ben Roethlisberger likely to follow next season. With all this turbulence going on, we are going to need to open our pocketbooks and make some big moves if we want to keep a straight face for the next couple of seasons. That starts with J.J. Watt. Adding a veteran presence could fix some holes in our defense that definitely need patching. Some would say that we should try to keep what we already have, which could mean attempting to resign Smith-Schuster. However, we already have better receivers than him in Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, as well as James Washington. Ben Roethlisberger will have no problem with his passing attack; our bigger issue is on the other side of the ball. Without Watt, our “elite” defense will struggle to keep opposing offenses in check, and we will be forcing Ben Roethlisberger to play in comeback situations, which is not something we want him to do. Signing the 5-time Pro Bowler is ultimately our best move to gracefully close out our last couple years of championship contention, and it’s one of the only moves we can make. Unfortunately for us, J.J. Watt has plenty of other moves he could make.

Reason #2: There are plenty of other teams in better situations than us

The Cleveland Browns, the Buffalo Bills, and the Green Bay Packers, just to name a few. J.J. Watt has made it abundantly clear that his main goal is winning a Super Bowl, and let’s face it, those three teams are much more likely to hoist a Lombardi in the next few seasons than we are. Each of them offers something different, and something that we currently don’t have. The Browns’ main bargaining point is money; they have $20 million in cap space for the upcoming season, which means that Watt could likely be paid his full value, while the Steelers are around $20 million over the salary cap, meaning that Watt would have to take a major pay cut to be able to suit up for the black and gold. Additionally, the Browns boast Baker Mayfield, the talented 25-year-old quarterback whom Watt has stated that he is actually a fan of. The Bills, meanwhile, have one of the strongest young cores in the league, with 4th-year quarterback Josh Allen, who tallied 4,544 passing yards in 2020, and receivers Cole Beasley and Stefon Diggs. Buffalo earned the 2nd seed in the AFC last season, and they are one of the NFL’s fastest growing teams, unlike the Steelers. In fact, their only noticeable weakness is their defense, who did not perform as well in 2020 as they had in years prior. Perhaps Watt could fix that, and the Bills could become a dynasty for years to come, instead of a team with a limited time frame for success. The third franchise in the conversation for Watt is the Green Bay Packers, the reigning #1 seed in the NFC and Watt’s hometown team. Although Green Bay is dealing with salary cap issues, their situation is nowhere near as dire as Pittsburgh’s, and the Packers have actually shown a conscious effort to relieve their issues, cutting $10 million in salary in order to be able to give Watt an offer close to what his value is. Additionally, we have to remember that the Packers are simply a better team than the Steelers. With Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams forming a legendary passing attack, Green Bay is much more likely to compete for a Super Bowl berth in the less-competitive NFC than the Steelers are in the hyper-competitive AFC.

Ultimately, it would be nice if J.J. Watt decided to reunite with his brothers in Pittsburgh, and his signing should be the top priority for the Steelers this offseason, especially with a roster that’s quickly deteriorating and a window for success that’s quickly closing. Evidently, though, there are several other teams in the NFL that have much better offers than us, like the Browns, Bills, and Packers. Don’t be surprised if your free agency fantasy doesn’t come true.