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One Thing's for Sure, T.J. Watt and the Steelers are Both Right - and Wrong

If we can all agree on one thing it's that the Pittsburgh Steelers have a track record, and T.J. Watt deserves to be paid.

Twitter was a fun place to be on Tuesday afternoon. I didn't talk much - just read, listened. And as T.J. Watt's contract extension became more and more in question, the more fun this bird app got. 

Let's start with some examples. There were two sides of Steelers Twitter on Tuesday - those who believe the Steelers should change their ways for Watt, and those who believe Watt should change his ways, and the way of players before and after him, for the Steelers.

While watching was fun enough, I did learn something. T.J. Watt shouldn't change his ways for the Steelers, but maybe the Steelers have the grounds not to change their ways for Watt.

On the one hand, the Steelers have won six championships "their way." Whether that's a boring argument to use with the dude at a bar about why they're the best team ever or not, it's true, and matched by just one other organization in the NFL. 

On the other hand, there's an argument the Steelers haven't won a playoff game since 2016, so "their way" isn't working right now. Well, Watt has totaled three tackles and zero sacks in the postseason during that span. That's not necessarily a record-breaking deal stat line. 

Here are my thoughts. 

I've heard/watched plenty of holdouts during my time as an NFL fan, reporter, observant. I don't remember anyone working harder than the rest of the team, at practice, without practicing. I don't remember any putting an end to their holdout come Week 1 without a deal. 

Watt has done more throughout training camp than maybe any Steeler. He has not taken a hit from an offensive tackle, ran full speed into a running back or played a lengthy time of football during that time. 

Head coach Mike Tomlin is not concerned. 

"One thing I'm not going to do is assume that he's regular," he said. "Guys that are in the position that he's in are in that position because of their unique talents and skill set and will.

"I remember years ago, watching Aaron Donald here for the vast majority of July and August when he was in a similar circumstance, and I was not surprised when he got to LA and performed immediately to an Aaron Donald standard."

Donald is a great example of what a superstar can do differently from other players. In 2018, the Pitt native spent his summer at home working at his college facility. He got the deal done on Aug. 31 and played in Week 1 for the Rams. 

He won Defensive Player of the Year that season, finishing with 20.5 sacks. However, he didn't record a single one during the first three games of the season. Maybe even superstars need a ramp-up.

The problem between the two sides is believed to be guaranteed money. The Steelers have a business model of guaranteeing the first season but nothing more. Meanwhile, teams like the LA Chargers and Cleveland Browns have guaranteed their newly-extended pass rushers a combined $202 million. 

The baseline for Watt is probably too high, but the Steelers' old-school mentality doesn't fit today's budget. That's kept them from extending players like Le'Veon Bell, which turned out in their favor. Bell and Watt are different, though.

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Bell was 26-years-old coming off a season with 406 total touches. The Steelers' offensive line was nearing the end, and the team had a defense that was still rebuilding. 

Watt is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year finalist who led the NFL in sacks last season. If the Steelers plan to draft their next quarterback or ride it out with Mason Rudolph, they don't have a major offensive contract to deal with next season. And the defense is expected to be one of the best in the NFL. 

At the end of all of this, there's an argument for both sides. The Steelers would likely be fine if Watt walked in 2022. You can't fill the shoes of No. 90, but you can find solid edge rushers year after year. 

In the same conversation, Watt is the Steelers' best player. This team isn't as good without him. And he deserves every penny he's going to make next season. 

Noah Strackbein is a Publisher with AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.

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