With Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt’s 21-day practice window opened to be activated off IR, we’ll see him back on the field for Pittsburgh either this weekend against the Philadelphia Eagles or in Week 10 against the New Orleans Saints in Pittsburgh’s first game after its bye. Watt has been out since Week 1 with a pectoral injury, and while he’s extremely missed on the field, he said that he feels he’s been able to help out with some situations by watching from afar.
“It’s nice because they can just say in my ear, ‘Go talk to him and say something.’ Sometimes it helps the heat of the battle to hear from a guy that’s been in it before as opposed to a coach who’s been out of it a little bit longer. So, I feel that can de-escalate some situations easier,” Watt said via official transcript provided by the team.
Watt’s comments about rather talking to a fellow player and teammate instead of a coach in certain situations echo what Ben Roethlisberger said on his podcast this week that guys would rather turn to their teammates, especially after a tough play. Having someone who’s at your level and is acting as an extra set of eyes can be more beneficial when you need advice/encouragement because as teammates, it’s usually going to be a guy who you see putting in the work alongside you. There still can be a bit of a divide between player and coach, especially in the heat of the moment, and having a teammate there to help you out and tell you what you did right/wrong is probably preferable.
Despite that, Watt said his time away from the field wasn’t time for him to be a coach. He was seen with a headset on a few times on Pittsburgh’s sideline, but it sounds as if he’s looking forward to trading it in for a helmet.
“It’s not time for me to be a coach. There’s too much going on in that damn headset; so much that I never even expected to be going on in that headset as far as strategy and play calls and all that. It’s just too much going on for me. I can’t wait to take that thing off and play.”
I’m pretty sure the Steelers organization as a whole is looking forward to Watt taking the headset off and returning to his outside linebacker position, too. Pittsburgh’s pass rush has struggled mightily with Watt out, as the team’s registered just five sacks the last six weeks after opening the season with seven in Week 1, the only game Watt’s been healthy for. The lack of a pass rush has been of Pittsburgh’s biggest problems thus far, and it’s one that Watt should be able to come in and help fix pretty immediately. Not only is he a master at getting to the quarterback and has the numbers to show it, but the extra attention he requires from blockers can help allow things to open up along the defensive line for guys like Cameron Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi or Alex Highsmith at the other outside linebacker position.
With the Steelers sitting at 2-5 and the possibility of heading into the bye at 2-6 very real, the Steelers would love to have Watt available on Sunday. If he plays, even if he’s on a pitch count, he could be an X-factor for Pittsburgh and give its defense that much-needed pass rush against a dangerous Philadelphia Eagles offense. We’ll see what happens, but this team really could use Watt sooner rather than later.