Pittsburgh won’t have T.J. Watt back for a while, but they still hold a competitive edge against the Browns based on the latest Steelers injury report.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have not been a good football team when T.J. Watt either isn’t in the lineup or is forced to exit the contest early due to injuries. Watt will be out for at least several more weeks as he recovers from a pectoral injury he suffered late in Week 1. Despite his absence, Mike Tomlin’s team still may hold a competitive edge against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football.
After coming off a heartbreaking 31-30 loss to the New York Jets, the Browns are suddenly decimated with injuries all over their team. They’ve already sent 10 players to IR, and several more injuries popped up this week.
The most notable of the group is Jadeveon Clowney, the former 1st overall draft choice by the Houston Texans will miss the Steelers vs Browns game tomorrow due to an ankle injury and has officially been ruled out, the official injury report confirms.
In addition to Clowney being out of commission against Pittsburgh this week, the status of several other key players is currently up in the air. Browns All-Pro guard, Joel Bitonio, did not practice on Monday and Tuesday and was only able to log one limited practice on Wednesday as he nurses a bicep injury. If he does play, he may not be at full strength. Likewise, right tackle Jack Conklin has been limited all week with a knee injury.
Steelers hold an advantage vs Browns
While I certainly don’t like the trade-off with the Steelers missing T.J. Watt this week, they could hold more of an advantage in this road contest than we originally thought. I initially worried about Pittsburgh’s offensive tackles handling Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney in Week 3, but with Clowney out, Pittsburgh can shift all of their focus to just one player.
After leaving Garrett on an island against Dan Moore the last time these two teams played, I would assume Mike Tomlin has learned his lesson. I would expect the team to offer help with a running back or tight end often on passing plays.
Okorafor, meanwhile, now has a very favorable matchup with Clowney out and backup Chase Winovich recently placed on IR. He will likely square off against a rotation of rookies in Isaiah Thomas and Alex Wright — a matchup that should clearly favor Okorafor.
Fortunately for Pittsburgh, just two players popped up on the injury report this week. Devin Bush was limited on Monday with what was labeled as a foot injury. However, he was able to practice in full the past two days and will be available for Thursday night.
While seeing Minkah Fitzpatrick pop up on the injury report the eve before the game against the Browns, his ailment was described as lower-leg cramps. He still practiced in a limited fashion and should be good to go this week.
The Steelers could struggle to get pressure on the quarterback once again without T.J. Watt, but the Browns have some big injuries of their own, and they are one of the most injured teams on paper through two weeks. Pittsburgh could hold a competitive advantage against a team missing a few starters and that lacks depth all over their roster.