Steelers defensive star TJ Watt moving forward on recovery

PITTSBURGH (AP) — TJ Watt watches from the sidelines — wearing sweatpants and headphones — as the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line practices, which is far below its usual siege and productivity capabilities.

The NFL Defensive Player of the Year has learned during his six-week recovery from a torn left pectoral muscle and surgery for a minor knee injury that he’s not ready to be a coach and should never give up. his physical condition or his career for sure.

“It’s terrible not being able to practice or play, but when you come back you appreciate it more and love it more,” Watt said Friday.

So much so that Watt is not ruling out and will travel with Pittsburgh (2-5) for Sunday’s visit to undefeated Philadelphia (6-0), even though coach Mike Tomlin has said it is “highly unlikely” that one of the teams will see action. most successful players in besieging rival quarterbacks.

“I feel encouraged by where I am,” said Watt, who returned to practice Wednesday.

That was not his feeling late in the fourth quarter of Pittsburgh’s first game of the season against Cincinnati, in which he suffered a painful twinge in the left side of his chest when he tried to catch Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.

Watt walked off the court holding the sore spot and told doctors “I tore it up.”

“I’ve had muscle strains before,” Watt said. “He feels like a crackle, a snap and you know right away he’s up to no good. It was just a matter of knowing how serious it was and that it would take between 24 and 48 hours for that to happen”.

Fortunately, an injury that can sometimes spell the end of the season for a player, for Watt only shortened the campaign.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy for Watt to spend more than a month as a well-paid, de facto assistant coach because during his absence, Pittsburgh’s defense has struggled to harass the opposing quarterback.

The Steelers dropped Burrow seven times in the first game. But without Watt they have only five sacks in the last six games and they barely touched Miami’s Tua Tagoviola last week in the game the Steelers lost 16-10, and in which they only hit the quarterback once. field.

“We have to find a way to harass and nail down,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said.

A task that is much easier with Watt, due to his peculiar way of wreaking havoc on the rival offense. In Cincinnati, it looked like Watt would start right where he left off in 2021, when he tied an NFL record with 22.5 quarterback catches.

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Steelers defensive star TJ Watt moving forward on recovery