"It just feels so good to smile right now."
Those were the words T.J. Watt used to open his press conference after signing a new five-year deal on Friday, and the fact of the matter is, his teammates, coaches, those in the organization and Steelers Nation are smiling right along with him.
"This was a dream to play for an organization like this, and it's everything from on the field to off the field," said Watt. "On the field, it's a three-four defense. I'm an outside linebacker. That is a player's dream. To play for Blitzburgh, to play for this city, to play for the fans is also a dream. And to play for the Rooney family is also a dream. It's incredible and I get chills talking about it. Being a part of an organization that has such rich tradition. And it's not some billionaire who came in and bought a team and started it because he had all this money. This is a team built off tradition, and it goes so much deeper than just football and that's why I am so grateful to be a part of it.
"I was not ready to leave. I love everybody in the facility. Just to be here and play in Heinz Field for many, many more years to come is an exciting thing."
Watt is a key component to the team's defense and getting him under contract was a huge focus for the organization. Watt thanked team President Art Rooney II, GM Kevin Colbert, Coach Mike Tomlin, and VP of Football Administration Omar Khan, for their hand in the process, because they all knew getting a deal done was big.
The Steelers signed linebacker T.J. Watt to a new five-year contract
But there were others he wanted to thank, in particular his teammates who never blinked when Watt didn't practice throughout training camp and the preseason as negotiations were ongoing, but at the same time, he worked his tail off on the side making sure he stayed in shape.
"I know it's been tough to watch me on the sidelines," said Watt. "They could have given me so much grief for not practicing and handling the situation how I did. No one gave me a hard time. I really, truly in the bottom of my heart appreciate those guys.
"Like I said when I got drafted here four years ago. It is my mission to make everybody in this room, everybody over here, and prove them right that they made the right decision. That hunger has not gone away. It has gotten stronger. I'm so happy to be here in the City of Pittsburgh for many, many more years to come and a Super Bowl is definitely a true possibility. I believe that in my heart of hearts. I'm going to do absolutely everything I possibly can to make that happen and to bring as many people along with me as I do that."
Watt said he learned the contract was a done deal when he got a call from his agents after practice informing him, even asking them if they were serious and it wasn't a joke.
"I said to them, let's absolutely do that deal," said Watt. "The rest is pretty much history."
Getting to that point, though, wasn't easy for the linebacker. But he did have a few people to lean on, including his brothers, Steelers' fullback Derek Watt and Cardinals defensive lineman J.J. Watt.
"I remember asking J.J. early on, how did your negotiations go? And he goes, 'once you sign on that dotted line, you kind of forget what happened leading up to that moment,'" said Watt. "That's kind of how this whole thing has been for me too. It was some long days for sure but like I said it's all paid off and now I'm just focused on playing football."
Watt did his press conference shortly after the Steelers wrapped up their preparation for Sunday's game against the Bills, and even though this was the first week he practiced, he does feel ready to go.
"They always say it's different from being in shape and being in football shape, and I believe that as well," said Watt. "But I worked extremely hard to have the catapult GPS monitor on me, and reflecting numbers from last year, and trying to make sure that I was in the top percentile of the guys that were actively practicing.
"This week in practice I felt great. I feel very confident, but at the same time, I also have to be smart and make sure that if I am feeling super gassed, I take myself out of the game. I don't think any of that's going to be an issue because I do truly feel great."
With the new contract of course will come pressure, but that is something Watt isn't even concerned with, especially being the youngest of three brothers in the NFL.
"I've been dealing with pressure my whole life," said Watt. "Everybody always asked me what's it like to be the younger brother of X, Y, Z. You know the answers to all that. I'm built for this. I truly believe that nothing monetary will change me as a person. The work that I put in will not change it will only grow.
"It's my job to prove to all these people that have put this amount of money to me and stood on the table for me to say they want me here, is to prove them right. And I know I can do it. I know exactly what it takes. I've been doing it my whole life. It's about just continuing to do it and staying hungry. I guarantee everybody here right now and everybody in this building, I am still hungry."
And with a smile on his face still, he delivered a message to the fans, and a little bit of conversation he had with his teammates.
"Let's go win a Super Bowl," said Watt. "Clear as that.
"We were just talking about just how special this group can be. With all the new additions we have. We're not so young anymore on defense and it's a real possibility. It's not something that we're just putting on a wall and slapping it as we walk by just because we have to. We truly believe this is a special team. And that's why I feel like we have to put every single thing we have into this year and see where it gets us."