During a radio interview today while visiting McKeesport High School with Rick Dayton from KDKA Radio, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt said he thinks he’ll able to go this weekend in Week 10 against the New Orleans Saints.
“I hope so. We’re trending in that direction, so we’ll see how tomorrow goes and this week of practice but I’m definitely going in that direction.”
It would be a bit of a surprise if Watt is unable to play this weekend, especially considering the team just waived outside linebacker Ryan Anderson in a move seemingly made to clear a roster spot for Watt. Watt’s been out since Week 2 after tearing his pectoral muscle at the end of regulation in the team’s Week 1 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. In that game, Watt had three sacks and an interception, and Pittsburgh’s defense hasn’t been the same with him on the sideline. The team has struggled to generate pressure, with just 12 total sacks after totaling seven in Week 1, and the lack of a pass rush has at times exposed a secondary that isn’t among the league’s best.
The return of the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year will also ease the burden on the rest of the front seven, as guys like defensive lineman Cameron Heyward and outside linebacker Alex Highsmith have faced increased pressure from opposing blockers with Watt on the sideline. Watt will surely see some of that attention go his way, which can open up the field for Highsmith, Heyward and defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi to make plays at the line of scrimmage or in the backfield.
The defense has to make more splash plays to help out an offense among the league’s worst, and Watt’s ability to rush the quarterback and make plays on balls in the air via deflections should help them do so. Being opportunistic on defense is going to be important, and Watt’s return will give the Steelers more opportunities to turn opposing teams over and give their struggling offense a short field to work with.
With Pittsburgh sitting at 2-6, their playoff hopes are pretty much dead. But Sundays are better when the Steelers are winning, and getting Watt back certainly amplifies their chances of doing so. Hopefully, he’s able to return on Sunday and the Steelers are able to improve off their lackluster start to the season with a strong second half.