Potential ways that the Steelers could try to replace T.J. Watt
The Steelers could approach the replacement of T.J. Watt in a variety of ways as the team looks to overcome his absence.
Things looked grim after the Steelers first win of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was a hard-fought game that saw the club struggle on offense, which put a sour taste in some fans’ mouths. It was only the first game of the year when disaster seemed to strike the roster as a terrible injury happened.
T.J. Watt is the catalyst for the black and gold’s defense. The unit does a better job when he is on the field and the numbers back up that claim. The dominant Defensive Player of the Year helped carry this team to another victory before he tore his pec muscle. Luckily, there was no ligament damage, and he should return sometime this season.
There are some internal candidates that would make sense for Pittsburgh
The first crack at holding the fort down while Watt is away will be from internal options. The coaching staff will need to evaluate the talents that they have on the roster currently before looking at outside options. Even though their star player will miss time, those that came into the game after him played well. It was a group effort to close out the contest and that will continue to be the case moving forward.
Alex Highsmith had a big game against the Bengals and will be counted on moving forward. Until Watt returns, Highsmith will be the top pass rusher for the Steelers on the edge. He showed some promising things on Sunday that should encourage those that cheer on Pittsburgh’s football team. Highsmith should be in store for a huge season in 2022 with or without Watt on the opposite side of the line.
The other two currently under the employ of the black and gold are Malik Reed and Jamir Jones. Reed was traded to the Steelers just a couple of weeks ago from the Denver Broncos as a depth move. He has played different roles throughout his career but becoming a starter will be the biggest challenge for him yet. Jones came back to Pittsburgh after being claimed off waivers and will have a secondary role behind Reed.
An outside free agent addition to the Steelers could be the best option
There is always an option open for all teams in the league to look at outside choices to bring into the organization. It is not common to find quality free agents at this point in the year, but there are some interesting names still available. If Reed or Jones do not suffice in their newly elevated roles, then the Steelers will have to turn towards free agency to put a band aid on their gaping wound.
Free agent deals are not that common for this club when the schedule kicks off, but they might not have a choice when things are struggling to stay positive without Watt in the lineup. Some names that are currently available that could make sense are Dee Ford, Pernell McPhee, and Jeremiah Attaochu. All three have varying degrees of experience in the NFL.
All of these players would bring experience with them, some starting more than others. Ford would be the highest pedigree available that has had double digit sacks in his career before. McPhee has the most experience out of the three but is slowing down with age. Attaochu has the least starting experience, but he has been able to show nice things and would be more likely to slide back to a depth role when Watt returns.
The Steelers will have some big decisions to make as the season progresses along. Watt is a big component of this team and it will take a group effort to do a suitable job of replacing him.