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USA Today

It appears that T.J. Watt will get his coveted contract extension before the start of his fifth season with the Steelers. Last year's runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year, Watt and the Steelers are expected to come to terms on an extension shortly after Friday's preseason game against the Panthers. The deal will make Watt the NFL's highest-paid defender, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Earlier this month, Steelers president Art Rooney II said that the team would try to come to terms with Watt on an extension "by the start of the season." While he has been present at training camp, Watt -- who is currently under his fifth-year option -- has not taken part in team drills as he continues to wait for a new contract. Three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Melvin Ingram has received reps with Pittsburgh's first-team defense with Watt on the sideline. 

"I try not to get optimistic or pessimistic," Rooney said, via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I've seen these things go so many different ways over the years. We're just going to do our best. Both sides want to get something done, so that is a good thing."

A Pro Bowler each of the last three years, Watt led the NFL with 15 sacks and 23 tackles for loss in 2020 despite not appearing in the Steelers' regular season finale. In 62 career regular season games, the former Wisconsin Badger has 49.5 sacks, 59 tackles for loss, four interceptions, 25 passes defensed, 17 forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. He came in at No. 6 on CBS Sports NFL senior writer Pete Prisco's annual list of the league's top-100 players

Watt's current market value is projected at $127.36 million over five years for an average per year salary of nearly $25.47 million per season, according to Spotrac. That would make Watt the league's second highest-paid edge rusher in terms of annual salary, behind Joey Bosa ($27 million) and just ahead of Myles Garrett ($25 million). The totality of the deal would put him behind Khalil Mack and Bosa and ahead of Garrett and Von Miller. Watt's next contract will likely make him the seventh edge rusher to have a contract in excess of $100 million. 

Watt would not address his contract status the last time he spoke with local media. He did, however, speak about his desire to remain in Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future. 

"I love this team," he said, via Chris Adamski of the Tribune-Review. "I love all of the coaches and the staff here and the players, and I am excited to be here. That's why I am here. ... I love Pittsburgh. Obviously, I would love to be here (long term). But all of those decisions aren't really mine to be made. So I am just here right now trying to get better every day."

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