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Roethlisberger on T.J. Watt's contract status: Pay the man

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) celebrates his sack of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Steelers All-Pro linebacker T.J. Watt has an ally in his contract negotiations: Ben Roethlisberger.
The veteran quarterback said Wednesday he believes Watt “should get whatever he wants” as he tries to lock down a new deal before Sunday’s opener at Buffalo.
Watt, a three-time Pro Bowler, is entering the final season of the rookie contract he signed after being taken 30th overall in the 2017 draft. The 26-year-old has been a fixture at the team facility since training camp opened in July but did not play in the preseason and has not participated in any contact 11-on-11 drills at any point.
Roethlisberger, who took a pay cut to return for an 18th season, said Watt has the support of the veterans on the team because they understand what he’s going through and respect his professionalism.
“He deserves every penny that he wants and asks for,” Roethlisberger said.
The Steelers do not negotiate with players once the regular season begins, creating a deadline of sorts for 1 p.m. Sunday. They have announced contract extensions on the eve of season openers before, though none with players as high profile as Watt.
Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday he’s optimistic Watt will be available when the Steelers face the defending AFC East champions. Watt’s 49 1/2 sacks in his first four seasons ranks sixth-highest in NFL history for players over that span.
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