NFL

T.J. Watt staying quiet on Steelers contract talks

By Sports Desk June 15, 2021

T.J. Watt refused to discuss the subject of his contract negotiations with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Tuesday as he enters the final year of his rookie deal.

The star edge rusher is set to be a free agent in 2022 and, regardless of whether he remains in Pittsburgh beyond 2021, is primed to receive a lucrative contract following a stellar start to his career.

A first-round pick in 2017, Watt has 49.5 sacks to his name since entering the league, with that tally third behind three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald (57.5) and Chandler Jones (50).

Still only 26, Watt can likely expect a deal in the region of the five-year, $135million extension signed by Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa in July last year.

But, as the Steelers continued their preparations for the 2021 campaign with their mandatory minicamp, Watt decided against discussing his talks with Pittsburgh.

"With respect to the process, I'm not going to be talking about any contract stuff today, " Watt told reporters.

Watt missed out on the Defensive Player of the Year award despite a 2020 season that saw him lead the league in sacks with 15. Donald was second with 13.5, though his pressure rate (28.2%) was superior to that of Watt (25.8).

However, Watt is not thinking about being snubbed for that prize.

"I don't think it's driving me. [The] big thing for me is realizing all the plays I didn't make last year," he added. 

"Yeah, there's a lot of good from last year, but there's still a lot to improve on."

Related items

  • Koeman desperate for win as Tuchel targets record – Champions League in Opta numbers Koeman desperate for win as Tuchel targets record – Champions League in Opta numbers

    Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman is under immense pressure and needs a convincing win over Dynamo Kiev, having failed to earn any points from the first two Champions League games of the campaign.

    Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is also in great need of a positive result, having won just two of his past seven games across all competitions, losing four.

    Bayern Munich and Chelsea seem set for comfortable victories, however, with Blues boss Thomas Tuchel targeting the joint-best defensive record after 10 games with a club in the competition.

    Read on for more as Stats Perform looks at the key Opta facts ahead of Wednesday's Champions League action.

     

    Barcelona v Dynamo Kiev: Can Koeman stop the rot?

    Koeman will be desperate to prevent his Champions League record at Barcelona from getting any worse after successive 3-0 defeats to Bayern Munich and Benfica in which the Blaugrana recorded a collective total of one shot on target, the least of any team in the competition.  

    Despite only taking charge of four per cent of Barcelona’s home Champions League matches (5/131), 25 per cent of their total home defeats in the competition have come under the Dutchman (3/12), who is the only Blaugrana manager to lose more than twice at home in the tournament. 

    Ansu Fati is perhaps Koeman's best chance of securing a positive result. The 18-year-old forward has been directly involved in three goals in two Champions League starts at Camp Nou (one goal and two assists), including an assist for Gerard Pique's goal in the 2-1 win against Dynamo Kyiv last year.

    Benfica v Bayern Munich: Lewandowski-led Bavarians expect to stay unbeaten on the road

    Bayern's record of eight European Cup/Champions League games unbeaten against Benfica is the joint-most by a team against an opponent since the tournament began in 1955.

    With the Bavarian giants also on a record 19-match unbeaten run away from home in the competition (W15 D4), Julian Nagelsmann's side will feel confident of success in Portugal.

    Furthermore, striker Robert Lewandowski - who has scored over a third of their 54 goals from that run (19 - 35 per cent) - has also netted five times in just six Champions League games against Portuguese opponents, including three against Benfica. No player has ever scored more times against sides from Portugal in the competition. 

     

    Chelsea v Malmo: Clean-sheet chasing Blues Luk-ing for big win

    Both of Chelsea's Champions League games this season have ended 1-0 - a win over Zenit and a loss to Juventus - but the Blues will be hoping for a more convincing scoreline as they host a Malmo side that have already conceded seven goals (the second-most in the tournament) and have lost their last five games in the competition by an aggregate score of 0-24, losing by three or more goals on each occasion.

    Chelsea centre-forward Romelu Lukaku, in particular, will be relishing the opportunity to boost his already impressive tally of 14 goals in 18 appearances in European competition since the start of the 2019-20 season. In this period, the only two players who have scored more non-penalty goals than Lukaku (12) across the Champions League and Europa League are Lewandowski (19) and Erling Haaland (18). 

    Tuchel will also be hoping for a seventh clean sheet in his 10th Champions League game in charge of Chelsea. The Blues have only conceded three goals under the German so far, which would be the joint-fewest through a manager’s first 10 games of a club in the competition (along with Fabio Capello at AC Milan and Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid).

     

    Manchester United v Atalanta: Ronaldo and Fernandes to rescue Solskjaer?

    Manchester United boss Solskjaer comes into this game under pressure after a 4-2 loss to Leicester City in the Premier League. The Red Devils have lost 58 per cent of Champions League games (7/12) under the Norwegian - the highest percentage of defeats by any manager to have taken charge of an English side on 10 or more occasions in the competition.

    Solskjaer will be relying on his dynamic Portuguese duo to earn a much-needed win at Old Trafford. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 18 goals in 23 Champions League appearances against Italian sides, while Bruno Fernandes' four goals and three assists is the most direct contributions to a goal from any midfielder since his debut in the competition for United.

    Atalanta are no pushovers, however. The Serie A side have only lost one of their last seven away games in the Champions League, winning five and drawing the other, and have won three of their six UEFA European matches against English opponents (D1 L2).

     

    Other fixtures:

    Zenit v Juventus

    0  –  Juventus have never lost in eight previous encounters with Russian sides in European competition (W7 D1), scoring 18 times and only conceding three, although their only failure to win came away at Zenit in November 2008.

    4  – Juventus have won their last four games in the group stage of the Champions League without conceding a single goal, with two of these coming away from home – 3-0 against Barcelona in December 2020 and 3-0 against Malmo in September 2021. 

    Young Boys v Villarreal

     – Villarreal have lost eight of their last nine games in the Champions League (D1), conceding at least two goals in all nine outings in this run. They will be looking for their first win in the competition since March 2009, when they won 2-1 against Panathinaikos under Manuel Pellegrini.

     – Young Boys are unbeaten in their last three home games in the Champions League (W2 D1), and could equal their longest run without defeat on home soil in the European Cup/Champions League – a run of four games between 1957 and 1959. 

    Salzburg v Wolfsburg

    21   – In Salzburg’s last four UEFA European competition meetings with German opponents, there have been 21 goals scored (six for, 15 against) – last season’s Champions League games against Bayern Munich alone saw 12 scored (2-6 home defeat, 3-1 away defeat).

     – Karim Adeyemi has won four penalties for RB Salzburg in the Champions League this season. Since 2003-04 (as far back as we have this data), no player has ever won more than four in a single season in the competition. 

    Lille v Sevilla

    32  – The average age of Sevilla’s starting XI in the Champions League this season is 29 years and 200 days; the oldest of any of the 32 sides. Sevilla have handed starts to five different players aged 30 or older in the competition this season (Jesus Navas, Fernando, Papu Gomez, Ivan Rakitic and Yassine Bounou), with only Malmo (six) having more.

    15  – Lille have won just 15 per cent of their home games in the Champions League to date (3/20) – among teams to have played 20 or more home games in the competition, only Romanian side FC Steaua Bucharest have a worse win percentage (9.5 per cent - 2/21).

  • MLB playoffs 2021: Bellinger gets Dodgers off life support, fast-finishing Astros level ALCS against Red Sox MLB playoffs 2021: Bellinger gets Dodgers off life support, fast-finishing Astros level ALCS against Red Sox

    Cody Bellinger saved the Los Angeles Dodgers with their season on life support as he crushed a game-tying three-run homer in a 6-5 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS).

    World Series champions the Dodgers were facing a 3-0 deficit in the NLCS, with the Braves leading 5-2 in the eighth inning before Bellinger's intervention at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.

    With Will Smith and A.J. Pollock on base, Dodgers star Bellinger crushed a Luke Jackson fastball into the right-field bleachers.

    Three batters later, Mookie Betts laced a go-ahead double with Chris Taylor touching down, before Kenley Jansen closed out the come-from-behind win.

    Jansen moved to outright second most MLB postseason saves with 19.

    Only the 2004 Boston Red Sox have ever erased a 3-0 deficit to win a postseason series, so the Dodgers significantly revived their hopes of reaching another MLB showpiece.

    The Dodgers had opened a 2-0 lead in the first inning after Corey Seager's two-run homer, but the Braves produced a four-run fourth inning, before Adam Duvall drove in Ozzie Albies in the fifth inning for his second RBI of the game to build a 5-2 advantage.

    The Braves held that lead until Bellinger's intervention in the eighth inning, with the Dodgers staying in the NLCS at 2-1.

    Meanwhile, the Houston Astros levelled the American League Championship Series (ALCS) after a seven-run ninth inning guided them to a 9-2 rout of the Red Sox in Game 4 at Fenway Park.

    The Red Sox had led 2-1 from the first inning after Xander Bogaerts' two-run inning, before Jose Altuve's game-tying home run in the eighth, which marked his 21st playoff home run, behind only Manny Ramirez (29) and Bernie Williams (22) overall.

    With two out, Jason Castro hit a go-ahead double in the ninth inning, setting off a rush of runs – including Michael Brantley's three-run double. The Astros' seven-run ninth inning tied the most ever in the ninth inning of a postseason game.

     

    Braves at Dodgers

    The Dodgers will look to level the NLCS when they host the Braves on Wednesday, with Julio Urias confirmed to start on the mound for the storied Los Angeles franchise in Game 4. Elsewhere, the Red Sox and Astros will meet in Game 5 of the ALCS.

  • Nets' Nash after Bucks loss: If you're not playing at high level against champs, you won't win Nets' Nash after Bucks loss: If you're not playing at high level against champs, you won't win

    Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash was not happy with his team's performance after the NBA title-chasing franchise were blown away by defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks on opening night.

    After unveiling their banner and championship rings in a pre-game ceremony, Giannis Antetokounmpo fuelled the Bucks to a 127-104 rout following his double-double on Tuesday.

    Kevin Durant had 32 points and 11 rebounds and fellow Nets superstar James Harden put up 20 points, eight rebounds and eight rebounds as he flirted with a triple-double on the road, while Patty Mills (21 points on seven-for-seven shooting from beyond the arc) tied the NBA record for most made threes on debut for a new team.

    But the Nets were no match for the Bucks in a repeat of last season's Eastern Conference semi-final after being outscored 37-25 in the opening period.

    "We weren't very good," Nash said. "If you're not playing at a high level against the champs, you're not going to win."

    It was a tough start to the season for Durant and Nets, who were without All-Star Kyrie Irving amid his absence because of not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

    "We can’t give a team 20 more shots than us," Durant told reporters after the Bucks made 48 of 105 shots, while the Nets finished 37-84 from the field. "Imagine coming to a game and say 'here, take the ball 20 times on offense before we get an offensive position.

    "This is one game out of 82 of them. We'll look at it that way. Every team will look at it that way. The Bucks won today, but they're still trying to fine-tune what they do, too.

    "I think every team in the league is going to look at their first few games, first few weeks and see where their team is going and then make adjustments."

    During preseason, Durant called the Bucks – spearheaded by Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday – a dynasty after they ended their 50-year wait for a championship in 2020-21.

    But after Tuesday's showdown, the former MVP told reporters: "Maybe I was reaching a little bit.

    "I just look at it as it's hard in the league for four or five guys to stay together as long as the Bucks did, through the ups and downs of losing in the first or second round, almost going to the Finals in 2019.

    "They've been through a lot together. That's probably what I meant more than anything."

    "They're just a team with some continuity," former Golden State Warriors forward Durant added. "I take that 'dynasty' thing back. I know it's a lot how that word gets thrown around. But they have some continuity a lot of teams don't have."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.