Ahead of the 2021 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers gave its star LB a deserving raise that’ll keep him in the black and yellow for an additional four years. Let’s review the numbers of Watt’s monster deal.
The Pittsburgh Steelers might not be most high-flying outfit in the NFL of late, but they’ve been able to keep pace and avoid a lot of costly upsets in recent years thanks to a consistently robust defense. So, as they adjust to life post-Big Ben, whom will the six-time Super Bowl champions turn to for leadership moving forward?
An undisputed candidate in edge rusher TJ Watt has emerged, man who’s been named First Team All-Pro in each of the past three seasons . Drafted 30th overall by Pittsburgh in 2017, Watt was rewarded by a front office keen on keeping him in the Steel City for the foreseeable future with a four-year, $112.01 million contract extension ahead of the 2021 season.
All told, the Wisconsin product’s lucrative deal made him the highest-paid player in the NFL at the time of signing — let’s dive into the details of the Steelers’ landmark TJ Watt contract.
TJ Watt Contract Details & Salary
Total value: $112,011,000
Average annual value: $28,002,750
Guaranteed at signing: $80,000,000
Total guaranteed money: $80,000,000
Free agency: 2026 (Potential out after 2025)
Annual contract extension earnings:
Watt quickly rewarded the Steelers’ sizable investment by putting together his most impressive season to date in 2021, tying the league’s all-time single-season record with 22.5 sacks and earning Defensive Player of the Year honors. The younger brother of three-time DPOY and future Hall of Famer JJ Watt, TJ also registered 64 tackles (21 for loss), seven passes defended, and five forced fumbles in 15 games played last season.
A pectoral injury derailed the start of a spirited 2022 campaign, but there’s every reason to believe that his tour of NFL dominance has not yet reached its peak.
Heading into the current season, Watt reworked his agreement with the Steelers to help the team save an additional $6.75 million in cap space, as noted by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Additionally, the outside linebacker lost his claim as the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL after Super Bowl-winning Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald signed the most lucrative deal in league history for a non-quarterback over the summer.
However, Watt’s $80 million guaranteed still remains the most of any defensive player the league has ever seen; 49ers sack artist Joey Bosa sits right behind him at $78 million.
TJ Watt’s Career Earnings
CAREER BASE SALARY: $20,385,064
CAREER SIGNING BONUSES: $40,466,974
OTHER BONUSES/INCENTIVES: $9,000,000
TOTAL SALARY EARNINGS THRU 2021 SEASON: $69,852,038
ESTIMATED SALARY EARNINGS THRU 2025 SEASON: $131,952,038