Coach Mike Tomlin called it. On the Tuesday before the Steelers opened their regular season against the Bills in Buffalo, Tomlin was asked about what his plans for T.J. Watt would be following an offseason where the fifth-year pro didn't take part in any team drills or hitting or preseason games while negotiating a contract extension.
"We'll play it by ear. One thing I'm not going to do is assume that he's regular or normal," said Tomlin. "I think guys who are in the position that he's in are in those positions because of their unique talents and skill-set and will … Guys like those guys routinely do what others can't. I kind of have that perspective on (Watt's) readiness and the anticipated quality of his play. I've just been in this game so long at this level that I'm so used to seeing uniquely talented people rise up in the face of adversity or circumstance and exceed it. And so, I'd probably be lying if I told you I would be surprised if he didn't perform and perform well."
Maybe Tomlin is a prophet, or maybe he just knows his players, because Watt completed a life-changing seven-day span that consisted of signing a contract extension worth a reported $112 million and included $80 million in guarantees, and he ended it with a performance that was anything but normal in helping the Steelers post a 23-16 victory over the Bills at Highmark Stadium.
Watt finished with three tackles, including one tackle for loss, two sacks, five quarterback hurries, and a forced fumble. Watt is the Steelers Digest Player of the Week.
Also considered were Cam Heyward, who had four tackles, one sack, two passes defensed where he batted the ball at the line of scrimmage, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery; Cam Sutton, who finished with five tackles, including two tackles for loss, and two passes defensed; Ben Roethlisberger, who completed 18-of-32 (56.3 percent) for 188 yards, with one touchdown, no interceptions, and a rating of 89.3; JuJu Smith-Schuster, who caught four passes for 52 yards and recovered the onside kick attempt to send the Steelers into victory formation; Chase Claypool, who had one run for 25 yards and three catches for 45 more; Minkah Fitzpatrick, who had 10 tackles and a pass defensed; Devin Bush, who had 10 tackles and a forced fumble; James Pierre, who had six tackles and a pass defensed; and Miles Killebrew, who blocked a punt that Ulysees Gilbert recovered and turned into a short touchdown run during the Steelers' second half comeback.