Pittsburgh Steelers LB TJ Watt Suffers Setback in Injury Recovery

by Nick Geddes
(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3) linebacker TJ Watt reportedly underwent arthroscopic knee surgery recently to clean up a preseason injury that lingered into the regular season.

Watt’s return to the Steelers is expected to be delayed, per ESPN. Watt has been out since Week 1 recovering from a torn pectoral muscle. He was expected to be sidelined for six weeks. The knee injury likely prolongs that timeline by another week or two. The Steelers are no longer counting on Watt returning prior to their Week 9 bye.

Watt, the reigning AP Defensive Player of the Year, suffered the pectoral injury during overtime of the 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals (2-2). Those watching at home were able to read Watt’s lips after coming off the field. Watt said “I tore my pec.” He exited to the locker room immediately.

The Steelers are adamant that they won’t rush Watt back and will be diligent in monitoring both his pectoral muscle and knee. Pittsburgh, however, sure misses his presence on its defense. Since Watt’s rookie season in 2017, the Steelers are 0-7 when he is out of the lineup. That includes the 0-3 mark this season.

Steelers Leaning on Others With TJ Watt Sidelined

Kenny Pickett, the Steelers’ 2022 first-round pick, will get his first-career start under center on the road against the Buffalo Bills (3-1) in Week 5 on Sunday. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin went to Pickett in place of Mitchell Trubisky during the 24-20 Week 4 loss to the New York Jets (2-2).

Tomlin made the switch to Pickett to provide a “spark” to an offense that has scuffled through four games this season. 

“Kenny will start this week,” Tomlin told reporters Tuesday. “We made the change, obviously. Mitch’s performance was a component of the decision, but not the only component of the decision. I just want to be really clear there. Oftentimes the quarterback position gets too much credit, too much blame. We haven’t moved the ball fluently enough to our liking.

“We hadn’t put enough points on the board. The quarterback is a component of that, but not the only component. We’ve all got to absorb the responsibility that comes with what we haven’t done, particularly in that phase. Including myself and starting with myself.”

Provide a spark Pickett did — for a couple of drives that is. Pickett guided Pittsburgh on two scoring drives, both ending with him running into the end zone for six. Pickett is the first quarterback to rush for two touchdowns in his debut. Through the air, he completed 10-of-13 passes for 120 yards. All three incompletions were interceptions, though two went off the hands of his receivers and the other was a Hail Mary attempt.