PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers star outside linebacker T.J. Watt remains in the NFL concussion protocol as the team begins its preparations for its Week 15 game against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, and head coach Mike Tomlin was sparse with details about Watt’s status going forward and the process that allowed him to finish the team’s game on Thursday night.
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.”
When Watt came back into the game after being examined, he put on a helmet with a dark shaded visor. Watt was not wearing during the first drive. The timing of Watt changing his helmet was interesting, but Tomlin said he was not aware of the change, and downplayed the potential significance of it 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.”
Watt is still in the concussion protocol, along with fellow outside linebacker Alex Highsmith. That leaves Nick Herbig and Markus Golden in line to start until they’re able to return, with concussions especially nebulous in terms of prognosis.
“I will rely on the medical experts in terms of their availability and then the stages of availability in terms of as we push through the week,” Tomlin said. “But I don’t have a lot of information or detail there.”