T.J. Watt did not have the sort of impact that he did in the first game of his career a week ago, during which he registered a pair of sacks to go along with an interception—but of course he didn’t even have half the time to do it in. Yet he still made plays.
In spite of the fact that he left the game in the first half with a groin injury, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie first-round draft pick and starter at the right outside linebacker position picked up another two nice plays during the game for his early highlight reel.
Early in the game, on the Vikings’ opening drive, Watt was rushing off the left side of the defense on a first-and-20 play following a hold on the previous play. As Case Keenum looked to throw in his direction, the edge rusher was able to keep his outside arm free and did a really nice job of batting the ball down. He had two of those I believe in the preseason, but unfortunately for him his brother already has the ‘Swatt’ nickname.
Later, on the first play of the Vikings’ second drive, it was both himself and Cameron Heyward who got into the backfield and teamed together to bring down rookie running back Dalvin Cook for a loss of four. Despite one long run of 25 yards that very nearly scored, the defense overall held him in check.
Though they ultimately ended up converting on third and one during their subsequent possession, Watt and Ryan Shazier were able to pair up to stop running back Latavius Murray on a second-and-one play, giving the rookie two run stops in less than a half of play.
Watt was also credited with a pressure on a deep pass later on that same drive, but I believe it was the ensuring punt on the Vikings possession after that on which he suffered his groin injury that resulted in him finishing the game watching in street clothes.
The hope is of course that the injury is minor and nothing to worry about, but the Steelers are fortunate to have also gotten back Bud Dupree today, who recorded a sack and a batted pass of his own. Anthony Chickillo replaced Watt, and the other two outside linebackers once again saw very few snaps.
Head coach Mike Tomlin did not have much of an update about Watt following the game, though that is not much of a surprise, but they should know more about his status going forward during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. For what it’s worth, Watt has since said he doesn’t expect his groin injury to be serious and isn’t worried about it, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com.
In spite of the fact that he is a starter, he is still a rookie, and though he is ahead of the curve, his playing opportunity should still largely be tied to whether or not he is able to practice, so if he struggles to practice this week, he may still sit out the next game. But we’re still very early in the process. And there’s also this:
TJ Watt walking around locker room unencumbered and with no limp or brace/wrap. For what that’s worth.
— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) September 17, 2017