PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt will definitely miss the team’s Week 2 game against the New England Patriots and is not expected to miss the entire regular season, but what actually will happen with the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year is still up in the air, head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday.
Watt suffered a pectoral muscle injury in the Steelers’ season-opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
The initial prognosis was a feared torn pectoral muscle, which could have ended Watt’s 2022 season just hours after it started. But since then, Tomlin and the Steelers have become progressively more optimistic about a far earlier return for Watt.
“I know there’s been a lot of speculation about that,” Tomlin said in his Tuesday press conference. “Let me say this: We’re probably in a lot better place than we were after the game.”
Tomlin said the team does not expect it to be a season-ending injury, but wouldn’t give a specific prognosis other than that he is sure Watt will not play on Sunday. He also said he wasn’t sure if Watt would go on the short-term injured reserve list, which carries a four-week minimum timeframe.
“We’ve got time to make decisions such as that,” Tomlin said. “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.”
If the Steelers do put Watt on the injured-reserve list, they would likely do so before Sunday, so that this game counts as one of his four that he would be required to miss.
The Steelers have already started the process of looking for external help for the position, hosing free agent Ryan Anderson for a tryout on Tuesday, but Tomlin was uncertain how much farther that would go, depending on the full prognosis for Watt.
“At the very least, we need outside help for practice,” Tomlin said.
Malik Reed is expected to start, with Jamir Jones serving as depth on the 53-man roster. Delontae Scott is a candidate to be activated from the practice squad.