Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt suffered a knee injury in Sunday's preseason matchup against the Detroit Lions and was ruled out for the rest of the game, per Brooke Pryor of ESPN.
Watt had one tackle for loss prior to exiting in the second quarter.
However, head coach Mike Tomlin assuaged some fears around both Watt and wideout Diontae Johnson, per Jenna Harner of WPXI:
Watt is coming off a career year in 2021 that saw him finish with a record-tying 22.5 sacks, which netted him his first career NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
Watt accomplished that feat despite missing two games with numerous injuries, including groin, hip and knee ailments.
It represents a massive blow to the Pittsburgh defense whenever Watt misses time, since he is widely considered to be one of the most dominant pass-rushers in the NFL.
Entering this season, Watt had earned four consecutive Pro Bowl nods and three first-team All-Pro selections in a row, as well.
After recording seven sacks as a rookie in 2017, the No. 30 overall draft pick out of Wisconsin exploded in 2018 and began a string of four straight seasons with double-digit sacks.
His sack production has gone up in each of his five NFL seasons, with totals of seven, 13, 14.5 15 and 22.5 to his credit.
Watt is unblockable at times, and he always gives the Steelers a chance to win when he is on the field, even if their offense struggles.
If Watt is forced to miss any time to start the season, the offense will have to compensate with quarterback Mitch Trubisky and running back Najee Harris being asked to carry much of the load.
As for who will replace Watt in the lineup, there is no one else on the roster capable of pressuring the quarterback close to that level.
The Steelers will undoubtedly need even more out of fellow starting outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward will need to elevate his play, too.