Pittsburgh Steelers fifth-year outside linebacker T.J. Watt pulled up lame chasing down a play during the first half of Sunday’s game, the second of the season, against the Las Vegas Raider. He would eventually be declared out for the rest of the contest with a groin injury, and his status for next week’s game is uncertain.
One thing his teammates know, though, is that he will be out there if he can be. Even though he is one of Watt’s newest teammates in Pittsburgh, nobody else on the team except for his older brother, Derek Watt, know him better than does Joe Schobert, and he’s seen what the All-Pro has been through.
“When he first got to Wisconsin, he was playing tight end. He had two or three knee surgeries in a row, like two full years”, Schobert recalled, speaking to reporters earlier today. “He just worked hard, got back, [and] obviously he’s built a heck of a career after that point”.
“He’s gonna do whatever he can to get back on the field, and I’ve seen that since I’ve known him. I trust he’s gonna be smart about his body, but he’s also gonna want to get out there and play, because he’s a competitor”.
Watt already has three sacks and two forced fumbles through the first two games of the 2021 season, after finishing last year with 15 sacks in 15 games played and two forced fumbles. He was the runner-up for the Defensive Player of the Year, and is driven to win it—ideally, more than his brother has, which is three times.
While the Steelers have other players who can put pressure on the quarterback, such as Alex Highsmith, Cameron Heyward, and Melvin Ingram, Watt’s presence takes things to another level, even in the minds of their opponents.
“When T.J.’s out there, the quarterbacks on the other team know they don’t have a lot of time to read defenses and read coverages”, Schobert said. “Even if he hasn’t had a successful rush on that side, they still feel him, so they’re usually a little bit more hurried in their delivery of the ball. We’ve still got a lot of guys who are capable of rushing the passer, but T.J.’s T.J., so that’s on their mind”.
More critically, the Steelers are dealing with injuries in the front seven. Stephon Tuitt is still sidelined, while Tyson Alualu is gone for possibly the year. Highsmith is dealing with a groin injury of his own. It was enough that they brought in Taco Charlton, signing him to the practice squad.
Will Watt be able to make it back onto the field in time to face their AFC North rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals? If he doesn’t, can they muster up enough pressure without him?