Steelers exercise 2021 option on All-Pro LB T.J. Watt

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers have picked up the fifth-year option on All-Pro outside linebacker T.J. Watt.

Watt, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in the 2017 draft, is coming off a stellar 2019 in which he had 14 1/2 sacks and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the second time.

Watt finished in the top five in the NFL in five categories last year, including sacks, quarterback hits and forced fumbles. He became the first player since 1990 to have at least two interceptions, four fumble recoveries and eight forced fumbles in a season.

The decision keeps Watt with the team through 2021. The Steelers are attempting to have Watt and fellow outside linebacker Bud Dupree together for the long run.

The team placed the franchise tag on Dupree in March and he signed his one-year tender on the eve of the NFL draft last week. General manager Kevin Colbert said the team hopes to sign Dupree to a new deal by the July 15 deadline.

The Steelers will likely approach Watt about a contract extension during the 2021 offseason. Pittsburgh historically likes to lock down franchise cornerstones with at least one year remaining on their current deals.

The move also assures Watt at least two seasons of playing alongside older brother Derek. The Steelers signed Derek Watt — a fullback — to a three-year deal in March.