You wouldn’t have known it watching him but T.J. Watt was sure feeling like it was his first game back. Despite making an immediate impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense, Watt admitted after Week 10’s win over the New Orleans Saints that his legs felt like “wet noodles.” Now, his legs are feeling like they should. Dry noodles, perhaps.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Watt said his body is mostly where he wants it to be.
“Good,” Watt said via Steelers.com when asked how he’s feeling. “It took a few days but I’m finally back. I’m expecting to feel much better as the weeks progress here. I feel good about the week that I’ve had.”
Watt didn’t miss a beat last Sunday, his first game action since the Week One opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. Despite DC Teryl Austin hinting at a snap count, Watt played his usual amount of snaps, 79%, though they were slightly structured differently. There were a handful of drives in which Watt did not begin the series but rotated in on third down, key possession downs the Steelers routinely won, a big reason for holding the Saints to ten points.
While his box score stats don’t jump out, four tackles, Watt made an impact from the literal first snap of the game, made his teammates better, and changed the structure of the Steelers’ defense.
Superhuman as he may seem, Watt’s conditoning wasn’t perfect for his first game back. But adrenaline and that Watt DNA got him through it. Now, he’ll face the Bengals for the second time of the three games he’s played this season. Before his injury, Watt was a force against Cincinnati, six tackles (three for a loss), with two pass deflections, an interception, and sack.
The Steelers defense is getting back to full health. With the exception of CB Ahkello Witherspoon, whose absence may be more addition by subtraction, Pittsburgh is expected to have all their starters available for this weekend, the first time that’s happened since Week One.
For Watt, he’ll have to play at a similarly high-level to beat Joe Burrow and the Bengals again, who are looking to cut down on their countless mistakes in what was still a Week One game that came down to the end of overtime.