Breaking down T.J. Watt's massive four-year extension with Pittsburgh Steelers

Richard Morin
USA TODAY Sports Plus

Linebacker T.J. Watt signed a massive four-year contract extension with the Pittsburg Steelers that makes him the NFL's highest-paid defensive player.

The $112 million deal will include $80 million fully guaranteed at signing, with $60 million fully guaranteed in the first two years and a $35 million signing bonus, a league official told USA TODAY Sports+ senior insider Josina Anderson.

Watt will earn a $1 million guaranteed base salary in 2021, but that number jumps to $24 million in 2022 and $20 million in 2023.

The Steelers traditionally are conservative with player contracts and guarantees, so this is a big deal all around for the All-Pro pass rusher.

Watt tallied 42.5 sacks from 2018-20 and finished second in NFL Defensive Player of the Year to Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams last season. He also finished third in voting for the award in 2019 after forcing eight fumbles and collecting four fumble recoveries that year.

Watt – who is J.J. Watt's younger brother – had the endorsement of his quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, during negotiations.

“I think T.J. should get whatever the heck he wants. He’s arguably the best football player in the game right now, not just on defense in general,” Roethlisberger said this week, according to ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. “I’ve been through a few negotiations here with contracts. One of the reasons I took less money was for guys like him to get paid, and he needs to get paid. He deserves every penny he wants and asks for. T.J. Watt is that guy, that should get whatever he wants.”