Three years ago, the Chicago Bears made a move just a week before the season kicked off. It was a move which altered the future of the franchise in a monumental way.
Of course, that deal is the one which brought Khalil Mack from the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders to Chicago, reenergizing the defense and catapulting the Bears into one of the most fun seasons in recent memory.
Fast forward to the present, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are headed towards a similar situation with their star pass rusher, T.J. Watt.
Finally practicing with the first team defense this week, Watt somewhat calmed the minds of Steelers fans across the world. However, a report from NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala now has Pittsburgh fans a bit nervous.
Could the Pittsburgh Steelers and T.J. Watt divorce in a similar manner to the one which landed Khalil Mack with the Chicago Bears?
Watt has been wanting an extension for a while now, and engaged in a “hold-in” throughout training camp. He’s been present with the team, but has not practiced. The Steelers have allowed this to go on without it becoming a huge distraction, however the longer this has dragged on, the more unlikely it looks both sides will come to an agreement.
The biggest hiccup, as notated above, is the fact that Pittsburgh remains steadfast in their commitment to only guarantee the first year of Watt’s contract. They have refused to offer guaranteed money beyond Year 1 — which is, of course, something many NFL players have desired nowadays.
A few years back, when Mack was a Raider, he held out in hopes to land a new deal from Oakland. It got so bad that, eventually, trade rumors started gaining steam. The thought of trading Mack seemed preposterous to many, but in the end, he was shipped off to Chicago.
Now the staple in this Bears defense, Chicago fans are more than elated to have him here. This defense would be no where near where it is without Mack’s presence. And elite, game-altering pass rusher can completely change the face of an entire unit — just as Watt has done in Pittsburgh.
Watt’s ascension has made the Steelers a sure fire, top-5 defense in this league. Mack did the same to the Bears once they acquired him three seasons ago.
If this situation gets any worse, we could be seeing another catastrophic trade take place. As of right now, Watt is the best player on the Steelers. With Ben Roethlisberger aging and likely retiring soon, the Steelers will be dependent upon their defense even more so, until they can find another franchise quarterback.
Should Pittsburgh lose Watt, just like the Raiders did a few years ago, they will be thrust into a very similar situation as the Raiders were. Vegas is still attempting to put together a playoff team, while the Bears have made the postseason twice since landing Mack.