The Steelers are at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, informally known as the South Side facility, now into the regular season. It’s where they otherwise train all year round, and the facility that Burt Lauten insists everybody refers to by its full name.
There are still unsettled questions that need answering, even deep into the regular season. They entered the process with questions in the starting lineup, in scheme, and elsewhere, but new problems always arise that need to be resolved.
Even questions about who’s starting and when may not have satisfactory answers in their finality, as midseason changes are certainly quite possible, for some positions more than others. We’re also feeling out how the new coordinator posts—or posts in new contexts—end up playing out.
There’s never any shortage of questions when it comes to football, and we’ll be discussing them here on a daily basis for the community to “talk amongst yourselves”, as Linda Richman might say on Coffee Talk.
Question: What will Mike Tomlin have to say about the status of outside linebacker T.J. Watt today?
The Steelers have lost five out of their last six games and now sit at 2-5 for the season. They have one game left before their bye week. The question is, will they get their best player back immediately after that?
It’s probably a safe bet if they decide to open T.J. Watt’s 21-day activation window this week. Even though he wouldn’t be expected to play on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, beginning the process of being able to practice would be a sure sign that his return is imminent.
The reigning defensive player of the year was seen working out fairly extensively prior to Sunday’s game, though of course it meant nothing relative to his status because he remains on the Reserve/Injured List. He suffered a strained pectoral muscle in addition to a knee injury in the season opener, during which he recorded a sack and an interception.
The Steelers have struggled mightily to get pressure on the quarterback without him, particularly in finishing pressures for sacks. They have just five in the past six games they have played without him, including three games in which they recorded none at all.
It’s astonishing to think how much just one player can completely impact a defensive unit, but often enough, this group has simply not looked good when he hasn’t been available, and that’s somewhat shocking when you consider that they do have clearly talented players like Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cameron Heyward.
I’m sure head coach Mike Tomlin will be asked about Watt today during his pre-game press conference, especially given that he was working out prior to a primetime game for everybody to see. We are right at the timeline of approximately when he was anticipated to be able to return. The question is whether or not he would confirm plans for him to begin practicing tomorrow. Not only he but most coaches, for some reason, feel obliged to play coy when it comes to players on IR practicing. “Wait until 4 P.M.” is a common answer.