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 the 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: How much of a ‘pitch count’ will T.J. Watt be on as he returns to the field after an eight-week absence?
We heard from defensive coordinator Teryl Austin yesterday speak about the impending return of outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who has been missing in action since week one due to a pectoral injury and compounded by a knee injury.
The team is expected to activate him to the 53-man roster in the next day or two and should participate in the following game against the New Orleans Saints, but the question is to what extent? Austin intimated that he would (or could) be on a ‘pitch count’ of sorts to limit his exposure as he works his way back.
But can they actually hold Watt to a pitch count? Would they, if he says he can handle it and he’s performing accordingly? It’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t let him play more or less as much as he wants if he feels his body is up to it.
He’s a sixth-year veteran who knows his body well, and it’s not as though he’s not aware of the time he’s just missed and why he’s missed it. I have no doubt that he would not push himself beyond what he’s capable of. He’s spoken in the past about getting smarter in that regard.
Obviously, the Steelers need all the help they can get, and Watt is the biggest possible addition you could make to a defense, so the temptation will be there to play him as much as possible. But what if he’s just ready for that? Why arbitrarily limit him out of an abundance of caution, provided that there is no clearly founded medical risk in doing so, as long as he shows he’s up to the task?