Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette went on The Cook and Joe Show on 93.7 The Fan this morning and said he believes T.J. Watt suffered a setback in his recovery from a torn pec.
“I wanna say last Wednesday, he was out there working. He was visible at practice and since then, hasn’t been at practice. I didn’t put eyes on him at the Jets game, so a lot of people are putting two and two together, and I’m in that camp. I think some sort of a setback occurred with his rehab. So I don’t think he’s going to be a candidate to come off IR next week, even though he’s eligible.”
Obviously, this is all speculation from Fittipaldo. While Watt could have suffered a setback, there’s nothing definitive saying that he did. Fittipaldo here is going off the fact that he hasn’t seen Watt around. It’s a fair assumption to make, but there’s no proof at all that a setback occurred.
Watt was originally expected to miss at least six weeks with his injury, so he’s still within that timeline for a Week 8 return against the Philadelphia Eagles. It wouldn’t be a surprise at this point though if the Steelers hold him out until after the Week 9 bye to give him some extra time to get healthy.
Jason La Canfora reported earlier this week that there’s hope in the Steelers organization Watt could return as soon as Week 6 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If a setback did occur, obviously that would be off the table. Either way, that would’ve been an aggressive comeback, given it would be a full two weeks ahead of the initial timeline of six weeks that was given when he was first diagnosed with the injury.
It goes without saying that a Watt setback wouldn’t be a good thing for the Steelers. With a team and pass rush that’s already struggled mightily without him, losing Watt for a longer-than-expected period of time would only be negative for Pittsburgh. The bigger concern is his long-term health though, and the Steelers rushing him back in a season where they don’t have much hope for a postseason appearance wouldn’t be prudent either.
There’s also the looming stat that the Steelers are winless without Watt. At this point, they’ve had their opportunities to win games without him but haven’t closed out, like last week against the Jets. There’s no doubt that they miss Watt, but they have to find a way to scheme a way to get more pressure and the rest of the defense has to step up. Whether or not he suffered a setback, the rest of the defense still has to pick it up for when he gets back. Hopefully, they take a step forward this week and when Watt does return, the unit can be at its peak.