The Pittsburgh Steelers‘ worst fears may not be realized. It was a bittersweet start to the year for the franchise, as it was able to fend off the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1 with an overtime win. But it came at a cost, as , including star pass rusher T.J. Watt. He went down with a pec injury in the second half, and it was reported that Watt was believed to have suffered a torn pec.
A day removed from the game, however, there is a more optimistic tone surrounding the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones reports that there is optimism in Pittsburgh on Monday that Watt did not experience a full pec tear and will be able to return after sitting out for a month or so. On Monday night, NFL Media reported that the belief is that Watt will not need surgery and that he could possibly return before the end of October, depending on how quickly the injury heals.
Of course, further tests will fully determine the scope of the injury and a clearer timetable, but this is far more encouraging news than how ominous things seemed immediately coming out of Sunday.
Before leaving due to the injury, Watt was his typical dominating self, tallying six tackles (three for a loss), a sack, and an interception as Pittsburgh’s defense did a good job against Joe Burrow. The Bengals quarterback was sacked a total of seven times and was forced into four interceptions and one fumble. Watt is coming off a 2021 season where he tied the single-season sack record with 22.5.
“Having T.J. out there definitely benefits us,” Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward said of Watt’s impact following Sunday’s win. “He’s a leader. He’s the defensive player of the year. However long it takes, other guys have got to step up. Alex [Highsmith] stepped up pretty good today. Malik and Jamir [Jones] are coming along. We had to do some different stuff out there. We rally around him, and when he gets back, we’ll be ready.”
Over the next month, the Steelers are slated to host the Patriots in Week 2, visit the Browns in Week 3, play the Jets at Acrisure Stadium in Week 4, and take on the Bills in Buffalo in Week 5. If Watt does sit out for just a month, that could be the window of games he misses with a return against the Buccaneers in Week 6 on Oct. 16 as a possible return date.
Again, a clearer timetable for his potential return and a true gauge of the severity of the injury should be unearthed in the coming days.