The Pittsburgh Steelers announced Saturday they've activated outside linebacker T.J. Watt from the reserve/COVID-19 list ahead of Sunday's Week 13 game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Watt, who was placed on the COVID list Monday, ranks second in the NFL with 12.5 sacks this season.
The linebacker's uncertain status forced the Steelers to prepare for potentially playing a crucial AFC North game without their top defender, a prospect defensive coordinator Keith Butler discussed Thursday.
"I hope we have him, but we have to plan that we don't have him," Butler told reporters. "We always have to do that. If we get him, it's a benefit for us."
Having Watt available is a major boost for Pittsburgh (5-5-1), which can create further chaos in an already tight divisional race with a home win over North-leading Baltimore (8-3).
The three-time Pro Bowl selection has vaulted himself into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation with his fourth straight double-digit sack season. He's a virtual lock to break his previous career high of 15 sacks set last year.
He's also recorded 41 total tackles, four passes defended, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries across nine appearances. He owns a terrific 87.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.
Despite his individual success, Watt wasn't happy with the team's overall direction after last Sunday's 41-10 blowout loss to Cincinnati Bengals.
He told reporters:
"It wasn't something any of us are proud of. You never want to have that feeling coming out of a game. We put it on tape and now we have to own it, move forward and know that everybody sees what just happened today and what we can expect moving forward. We have to stop this before it continues to unravel and become a bigger issue than what it already is. We can't keep playing like this. It's absolutely embarrassing."
Pittsburgh must elevate its level of play down the stretch for a shot at the playoffs. It owns the fifth-hardest remaining schedule in the NFL, according to ESPN's Football Power Index.
A healthy and productive Watt will be one of the biggest keys if the Steelers are going to make a surge.