Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, unhappy with the way the 2020 season ended, chose not attend his exit interview with the team, according to a report on Monday by WXDX-FM host Mark Madden.
Watt denied the report, saying that he had in fact met with Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, head coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator and de-facto outside linebackers coach Keith Butler before leaving the city at the close of the season.
Would love to hear who Mark’s sources are. They certainly can’t be myself, Coach T, Kevin Colbert or Coach Butler. All of whom I met with during exit interviews, prior to packing my own things after a hard fought season trying to give everything I have for the city of Pittsburgh. https://t.co/wqJsGObYp7
— TJ Watt (@_TJWatt) January 26, 2021
Let’s make no mistake, the Steelers have a lot of problems this offseason.
• They chose not to retain three coaches and another retired. The general manager, head coach and defensive coordinator are all working on year-to-year contracts.
• Tight end Vance McDonald has already retired. Center Maurkice Pouncey looks like he’s leaning that way.
• Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t made his decision public yet, but he’ll either retire or return and contribute to a salary cap crunch that already has the team operating way in the red.
• And that’s before any of the Steelers’ 19 free agents gets a chance to re-sign.
All told, at least a half-dozen starters are unlikely to return along with several key rotational players.
Regardless of whether he did or didn’t attend his exit meeting with the team last week, T.J. Watt is not one of those problems.
The all-everything linebacker was the best player on one of the best defenses in the league all season, is scheduled to return for his fifth season in black and gold in 2021 and is the player most likely to be offered a long-term extension by the club between now and then.
Even despite the loss of cohort Bud Dupree and sitting out a meaningless finale in Cleveland, Watt led the NFL in sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hits, he was named a first-team Associated Press All-Pro and voted Steelers MVP by his teammates. He remains the odds-on favorite to become the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Watt is coming back, he’s still going to be really, really good, and nothing said or not said in an interview would have changed that.
The rest of the team?