Last week, the Steelers opened the IR-return window on T.J. Watt, leading to questions of when they would envision his return. Despite this Sunday marking the second week in which the defending Defensive Player of the Year could be activated, that remains unlikely to happen.
Watt has been sidelined since suffering a major pectoral injury in Week 1. The fact that he was able to rehab it left the door open to a return at some point in the season, but it came as no surprise that he was placed on IR. His timeline to see the field was pushed back, however, when he underwent knee surgery just under one month ago.
Given Pittsburgh’s struggles this year, along with Watt’s crucial importance to the team, the Steelers have remained understandably cautious with him. Indeed, as confirmed by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Week 10 has always remained the target with respect to Watt’s return (Twitter link). That contest against the Saints would be the last opportunity for Watt to be activated; if he fails to return by next week, he will be out for the remainder of the season.
While Pittsburgh sits at 2-6, leaving their chances of a postseason berth – or, at a minimum, extending their streak of never having a losing season during the Mike Tomlin era – in serious doubt, Watt returning to the fold would of course be a welcomed sight. In his absence, the team ranks 21st in the league with 15 sacks, a far cry from their normal position in that regard during the 28-year-old’s standout career.
The Steelers are on their bye this week, which gives both Watt and safety Damontae Kazee time to ease back into game shape. While November 13 will be the team’s first contest since trading away Chase Claypool in a significant move on offense, then, it should also see a pair of important defenders make their return to the field.