Steelers: Pittsburgh’s backup plan after missing out on J.J. Watt

Credit: Joe Sargent/Getty Images
Credit: Joe Sargent/Getty Images /

J.J. Watt won’t be joining his brothers on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

On the plus side, Primanti Bros. doesn’t have to change its name.

The Steelers signing the eldest Watt brother in the NFL was always based on him wanting to fulfill a career-long dream of playing with his siblings. However, he would’ve had to take far less money to make that happen. Pittsburgh simply didn’t have the financial means to make him a competitive offer, especially with Ben Roethlisberger’s contract drama leaving an enduring presence.

Watt took the Arizona Cardinals’ two-year, $31 million offer and ran straight to the desert (not a Peloton guy, apparently). This leaves the Steelers without a primary free agent target for the first time this offseason. So, what should they do?

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Pittsburgh’s top priority has to be getting Roethlisberger under a new, and more affordable, contract. With Kevin Colbert in talks with Big Ben and his agency, it should be resolved in the coming days (or weeks). Roethlisberger will be the Steelers quarterback come Week 1, the question is just at what cost.

Per ESPN’s Brooke Prior, after Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement, the Steelers remain $15.5 million over the salary cap. That’s still significant, though it’ll come down once Roethlisberger’s deal is finalized. Getting under the cap — and with wiggle room — is huge for Pittsburgh with several contributors in need of new contracts.

Bud Dupree, Joe Haden and Mike Hilton are all free agents. T.J. Watt needs a contract extension — and that’ll be a huge chunk of change. JuJu Smith-Schuster wants to return to Pittsburgh, though that seems more like an unrealistic afterthought at this juncture.

The Steelers’ to-do list is long and arduous. They’ll be busy through training camp, as they should be.

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