PITTSBURGH — Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt did not return to the team portion of practice for Monday’s first regular-season session as the team prepares for the Buffalo Bills, a team spokesperson confirmed.
Since the start of training camp, Watt has been participating in the individual parts of practice, but not in the team, contact periods. During those periods, he has been working on his own off to the side.
Watt and the team have been working on negotiating a contract extension beyond the 2021 season, which is the last that Watt is currently under contract for.
The team has not publicly disciplined Watt for missing practice sessions and preseason games, but it is unclear if that will continue now that he’s missed a regular-season practice.
Watt’s salary for the 2021 season is guaranteed against release or injury, but if he does not play when the Steelers travel to Buffalo on Sept. 12, the Steelers could withhold his salary.
The Steelers do not negotiate contract extensions with players once the season starts, meaning the team and Watt have just a few days in order to secure an extension.
If Watt refuses to play the 2021 season, the Steelers would be able to toll his contact, keeping him under team control for another season under the same arrangement. Watt will have to play (or be placed on the injured reserve list) for six weeks in order to avoid that outcome.