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Steelers DC Keith Butler Says T.J. Watt ‘Needs Practice,’ Hopes Deal Gets Done



PITTSBURGH — The Steelers’ weighted sled is probably sick of T.J. Watt.

The star outside linebacker has spent most of the 2021 training camp working off to the side on his own, in what’s being called a “hold-in,” as Watt has attended practices but not worked in a team setting since the start of camp.

Frequently, that has meant dragging a weighted sled along the sidelines of Heinz Field, to the point that he’s had to move around to avoid rutting up the field.

Watt looks ready to go, and while his contract situation is still unsettled, at some point, the team is going to need him to go, too, whether his situation for 2022 and beyond gets resolved or not.

“Everybody needs practice,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said on Tuesday. “Everybody does. It doesn’t matter who you are.”

But that puts Butler and the rest of the Steelers coaches in a tough spot. Butler is on the record as supporting his player’s decision to limit his contact while negotiating a new deal. But he also needs to get his star linebacker into a formation a few times before the Steelers face the Buffalo Bills in three weeks.

“I’m for him, I’m not against him,” Butler said. “I’m for Art Rooney, I’m not against him either. So, it’s really none of my business in that situation. Do I want him on the practice field? Yeah, sure, I do. I want him on the practice field when we can get him on the field. But at the same time, I want him to be happy on the practice field, not dadgum begrudging all this stuff. I don’t think he would be.”

Watt doesn’t have the personality type to cause those types of problems, but eventually, his absence alone will become one if the sides don’t get a deal done soon.

“I’m just saying I hope they get it done,” Butler said. 

That’s for sure.