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Steelers' Mike Tomlin 'Encouraged' by Updates on T.J. Watt's Pectoral Injury

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 13, 2022

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) plays during an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)
AP Photo/Jeff Dean

On Tuesday, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that Pittsburgh Steelers superstar T.J. Watt tore his pectoral but didn't tear the tendon, meaning that he won't require surgery and could return this season after six weeks of rehabilitation.

And that has to be at least some measure of relief for Mike Tomlin.

"We're probably in a lot better place than we were after the game," the team's head coach told reporters on Tuesday. "... I can definitively say that T.J. won't play this week [against the New England Patriots], but I won't make any commitments beyond that. We're encouraged, and we'll just continue to look at the situation and gain opinions and do what's appropriate."

Watt also indicated on Twitter he plans to return this season:

TJ Watt @_TJWatt

<a href="https://t.co/xSMGsjB55X">pic.twitter.com/xSMGsjB55X</a>

It's huge news for the Steelers—the 27-year-old is one of the most dynamic defensive players in football.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year award winner notched 64 tackles (21 for loss), 22.5 sacks, 39 quarterback hits, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and seven pass deflections in 15 games last season. The four-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro selection is the game's most feared edge-rusher.

So any time he misses is a huge blow for the Steelers. Just how much time he misses remains to be seen, and a decision on whether he will be placed on injured reserve—which would guarantee he missed a minimum of four games—has yet to be decided.

"We got time to make decisions such as that, IR decisions that have to be made by the end of the week relative to this game being a counter," Tomlin said. "... We're not in a hurry to gather information too quickly. We'll see how his body responds. We'll get second and third opinions. And at the end of the week, or at some point we'll do what's appropriate."

Watt isn't replaceable for the Steelers, obviously. There are no easy substitutions for a player who has registered double-digit sacks in four straight seasons 37.5 in the last two years alone.

But Malik Reed and Jamir Jones will play a bigger role for the Steelers going forward opposite Alex Highsmith, who opened the season with three sacks against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Chris Adamski @C_AdamskiTrib

Malik Reed is “definitely ready” to be the next man up filing in for TJ Watt as Steelers LOLB <a href="https://t.co/4TgxxgORuc">pic.twitter.com/4TgxxgORuc</a>

Ray Fittipaldo @rayfitt1

Tomlin said it will be a cast of characters to fill his role and mentioned Malik Reed and Jamir Jones. "It's not realistic to think they're going to be TJ, but they're varsity."

Reed had five sacks for the Denver Broncos last season. Jones didn't register a sack in stints with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Steelers and Los Angeles Rams in 2021.

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