Steeler Week 1 Buzz: I Will Never Side With a Player During a Holdout


(Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers)

I like T.J. Watt a lot.  I have bet on him to win the Defensive Player of the Year Award the past two seasons, and I have a future on him again this season.  He is one of the most talented players on the field every time he steps on the grass.  However, T.J. Watt is threatening a holdout if the Steelers do not renegotiate his contract terms.  I will never side with the player when it comes to a holdout. 

Contracts Are Binding

I am a simple guy.  I catch the bus around 7:30 AM each morning and ride into downtown Pittsburgh for my 8 hour a day, office job.  I value my job and the success I have had thus far.  That is why I know it could all be gone in a snap.  Especially in a world where layoffs and furloughs are prevalent with the current pandemic going on.

I know what my job entails.  When I was working to go pro in my field of study, I knew what came with that.  Going into an office 8 hours per day, little room for creativity, and the median pay is what it is.  I also knew I was entering an at-will agreement with my employer that could end at any moment.

This is my ultimate problem with holdouts.  When players aspire to play professional football, they too go in with the understanding of what that entails.  They will get paid an exorbitant amount of money, but they must play a game that is inherently dangerous. 

They also typically join a union that has structured contracts and those contracts are set up in a way that is well known and public information.  Rookie contracts are what they are, and they are typically not guaranteed.  However, players agree to these contracts and the legal terms within them.

T.J. Watt knew all of this when he decided to pursue professional football.  In fact, he knew way more than most since the NFL is the Watt family business.  When he agreed to sign with the Steelers, he agreed to a contract.  He is not an at-will employee.  Watt was presented with a contract and both parties agreed to the terms for a certain amount of time.  There is nothing sneaky nor secretive about it.

Also, I understand the desire for guaranteed money.  NFL’ers have a job that is inherently more dangerous than mine.  However, if you’ve ever rode the G2 Busway on a snowy day, you feel like your death is imminent while going down the ramp that meets with West Carson, but I digress.

It is just difficult for me as, like I said a simple guy, to accept the idea of guaranteed money.  There are a ton of inherently dangerous jobs that pay a lot less and are not guaranteed.  Also, as I have said before, both parties, including Watt, agreed to the terms of the original contract. 

I am even okay with drafted players holding out for the rookie contract terms they desire.  They have not agreed to terms yet and they can still dictate them.  Furthermore, when in free agency, hold out as long as possible for the contract terms you believe you deserve.  However, once you agree to a contract, that is where you lose my empathy.

I am also tired of the argument, "he is within his right."  He isn't.  If Watt was within his right to holdout for better contract terms then the Steelers could not garner his wages.  If they can legally not pay Watt, which they can, then he is not within his legal right to holdout.

Individual Over Team

Another reason it is difficult to side with the player is that, selfishly, this totally changes how I view him the rest of his career.  We, as fans, love to hear players say, “We do it for the fans”, or, “I don’t care about personal accolades, it is all about winning the Super Bowl.”  I can no longer take these types of statements from T.J. Watt at face value. 

If Watt was truly playing for a Super Bowl, or for Steeler fans, he would know that what is best for the team is for him to be on the field.  Honestly, I know these statements from most players are pandering.  It's a fallacy to believe that a Super Bowl is more important than one's own self.  Everyone cares more about themselves than the team.  It’s human nature.  We all care about what is best for ourselves and our loved ones more than the organization we work for.

Unfortunately for Watt, this is now very evident.  Which is fine, get what is yours.  But don’t try and disguise it anymore as team first. 

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