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Steelers Get Huge Boost with T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith Return



Steelers OLB T.J. Watt
Steelers OLB T.J. Watt returns to practice after suffering a concussion, Dec. 12, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — Steelers outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith have returned to practice on Tuesday after entering the concussion protocol following injuries suffered against the New England Patriots. Highsmith left the game and did not return while Watt was put into the protocol on Friday. However, it seems that both have taken their first steps in the protocol and are on track to potentially playing on Saturday. They received two extra days to clear it because the team played on Thursday.

Watt was hit with a knee by New England Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott on the first defensive snap of the game. Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick tackled Elliott right into Watt, with Elliott’s knee impacting Watt’s facemask in the jaw area.

Watt stayed down on the field after taking the hit. He was helped off the field by Steelers trainers and examined on the sideline before being allowed to return to the field after just a few plays.

After the first series, Watt was taken into the medical tent on the Pittsburgh sideline and examined more fully by both Steelers team medical professionals and the NFL’s independent neurologist. It was determined that Watt was OK to return to play and he did so.

“I assume that he was,” Tomlin said. “I’m managing the game. I leave that to the medical experts. They essentially tell me whether someone is out, whether they’re subject to return or whether they’re back. I got a report that he was subject to return and then I got a report that he was back. That was my knowledge of the details of what transpired with him during the time that he was out in-game.”

He came back into the game after taking smelling salts and wearing a tinted visor, sparking concerns about the process for the injury.

The timing of Watt changing his helmet was interesting, but Tomlin said he was unaware of the change and downplayed its potential significance on Monday.

“I wasn’t aware of that, to be honest with you,” Tomlin said. “So I don’t I don’t have a response to that. I wasn’t aware that he changed visors. He normally wears a visor. You mean the tone of his visor was different? I wasn’t aware of that.”

Highsmith and Watt must clear the five-step concussion protocol before they can play on Saturday. Since they are already dong physical actively on Tuesday, it would seem they are well along the path towards achieving that goal.