The Pittsburgh Steelers remain optimistic linebacker T.J. Watt will return at some point during the 2022 NFL season.
Watt suffered a pectoral injury during the season-opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals, and ESPN's Adam Schefter reported it was believed to be a tear. However, CBS Sports' Jonathan Jones followed up Monday to report the injury may not be a serious as first feared:
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the belief is that the injury will not require surgery and Watt could return in "six weeks or so."
Schefter added that Watt will seek second and third opinions from doctors to determine the best course of action. If it's determined he needs surgery, Watt will miss the remainder of the 2022 season. A rest approach could get him back in the lineup in six weeks.
While Pittsburgh earned the dramatic overtime win, it was quite the costly one considering how important Watt is to the team's Super Bowl chances.
The Wisconsin product was the Defensive Player of the Year last season with 64 tackles, a league-best 22.5 sacks, seven passes defended, five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He made his fourth straight Pro Bowl and was named an All-Pro performer for the third straight year.
He was once again expected to contend for the Defensive Player of the Year in 2022, putting the onus on other defenders to make up for his absence.
That makes Cameron Heyward all the more important as a defensive leader, and Alex Highsmith will likely see more opportunities as well until Watt is back on the field.