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Heyward Knows Watt’s Return Doesn’t Solve All Problems: ‘It’s Not Gonna Take Away From The Doubles I Get’

While he has not yet been activated to the 53-man roster, all indications point to T.J. Watt returning this week for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The All-Pro pass rusher is expected to be removed from the Reserve/Injured List today or tomorrow in time for the New Orleans Saints game.

Coaches and teammates have been asked for weeks upon weeks about what kind of impact Watt has on the game and how he makes the team better, how he makes their jobs easier. Defensive captain Cameron Heyward approached it from a different angle yesterday when he was asked about the ripple effect such a talent has in returning to the lineup.

“I don’t really look at it like that. Like, T.J.’s a great player and all. I’ve got to still do my job, and it’s not gonna take away from the doubles I get or how I need to perform”, he told reporters via the team’s website. “It’s nice to have him out there, don’t get me wrong, but at the end of the day, I’ve got to still do my job”.

Heyward’s play in 2022 has been a bit more hot and cold than it has in recent years, though he has still been playing at a high level from an overall point of view. He has 31 tackles at the halfway point, including five tackles for loss, as well as three sacks, seven quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and a batted pass.

Of course, when you compare it to last season’s numbers—when Watt was setting records en route to a Defensive Player of the Year Award—it does feel like a drop-off. He recorded 89 tackles in 2021 with 10 sacks and nine batted passes, with 15 tackles for loss and 17 quarterback hits.

He still has nine games to add to his current season totals, and having Watt back in the lineup is going to make everybody’s jobs a little bit easier. But as he said, he’s still going to be facing double teams because he himself is an All-Pro as well.

The better those around you are, though, it’s inevitable that it affects your job to some degree. Watt having Heyward on the field makes his job easier as well, as opposed to a Chris Wormley or some replacement-level player.

It may seem like he’s downplaying Watt’s return, but I do think it’s an appropriate tone to strike. One player, no matter how good, is no magic elixir. They struggled last year even when he was on the field as well, particularly against the run. Everybody still has to do their jobs and has to do it better than they have been. Getting a star player back in no way absolves them of any of their responsibilities or accountability for their performance.

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