The Pittsburgh Steelers anxiously await the return of team captain and DPOY OLB T.J. Watt back to the lineup in time for the team’s first game back from the bye week against the New Orleans Saints. However, while it appears like the runway is set for takeoff in terms of Watt coming off IR and playing in Sunday’s game, it doesn’t sound like he will receive a full allotment of snaps in his first game back.
When speaking with the media Thursday, DC Teryl Austin was asked about Watt’s availability this coming Sunday against New Orleans and what he anticipates his workload to be to which Austin responded that he would be surprised if Watt would see his usual percentage of snaps on defense.
“I don’t think it’ll be a full 60-play game for him,” Austin said to the media Thursday at practice according to a Tweet from The Athletic’s Mike DeFabo. “I don’t think that’s realistic to think for a guy coming back after seven weeks, eight weeks.”
Watt hasn’t played since Week 1 when he injured his pec in a win against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was feared that Watt would be lost for the season, but instead of having to perform season-ending surgery, the injury was deemed minor enough to heal enough on its own without performing a procedure and that he could return in six-to-eight weeks.
Watt started practicing prior to Pittsburgh’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8 right before the bye, prompting many to wonder if Pittsburgh would activate him then before the bye to get some run prior to the week off. The team opted not to do so, letting him rest another two weeks and continue to heal before this upcoming matchup with New Orleans at home.
Now, it looks like Watt will return to the field to give Pittsburgh much-needed help in terms of generating a pass rush that has been non-existent at times since he got injured. However, the Steelers look prepared to ease their star pass rusher back into the fold rather than letting him run loose and play 90-plus percent of the reps. For a team that is 2-6, keeping the long-term view in-mind would be wise for the team’s best player who is likely champing at the bit to get back onto the field.