PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt will return to the field this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, he confirmed after practice on Friday.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Watt said. “I feel very good about the week that I had. I’m excited to be playing, excited to be back at Acrisure Stadium.”
The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year that led the NFL in sacks in 2020 and 2021, tying a league record last season, he should provide an immediate boost to a Pittsburgh defense that was decidedly middle of the pack in the first half of the season.
“I hope so,” Watt said. “I think everybody in here is trying to find a spark and trying to get in the win column.”
The Steelers won their season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, the only game Watt has played this season. Since then, Pittsburgh is 1-6. He suffered a torn pectoral muscle in Cincinnati and also underwent a knee procedure while he was rehabbing his other injury. Watt said that he would not be on a specific snap count for the game against the Saints.
“I don’t want to put limitations on myself,” he said. “I’ve never put limitations on my snaps or anything.”
The Steelers have used a combination of rookie DeMarvin Leal, veteran backup Malik Reed and defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk to attempt to replace Watt’s production in his absence. That group has just one sack combined on the season.
Watt will start opposite Alex Highsmith at outside linebacker, who has 6.5 sacks on the season, but three of those came in the one game he shared the field with Watt, against Cincinnati. Since then, as the Steelers primary pass-rushing threat, Highsmith has 3.5 in seven games.
The Steelers will need to officially activate Watt from the injured reserve list and clear a spot on the 53-man roster before he can play on Sunday.
Nick Farabaugh provided reporting from Pittsburgh.