Steelers Art Rooney II doesn’t think T.J. Watt was healthy after his return
Art Rooney opened up about the Pittsburgh Steelers in a recent post-season interview. Here’s what he had to say about T.J. Watt in 2022.
It was rough having to watch T.J. Watt deal with injuries in each of the past two seasons. In 2021, the All-Pro pass rusher managed to tie the all-time single-season sack record despite missing two games and being hampered by hip, knee, and groin injuries throughout the season. This past year, Watt landed on IR after Week 1 with a pectoral injury that claimed half of his 2022 campaign.
This wasn’t the only thing the Pittsburgh Steelers star defender dealt with last year. While on injured reserve, Watt underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in an effort to kill two birds with one stone, if you will.
Upon returning to the field following Pittsburgh’s Week 9 bye, Watt was thrust back into action, but he didn’t seem the same. This is to be expected from a player who missed the first half of the season with a partially torn pectoral muscle. However, we weren’t the only ones who took notice.
On January 26th, Steelers host and sideline reporter, Missi Matthews, sat down with owner and president Art Rooney II for a one-on-one. Matthews asked many questions about the season and about improvements on both sides of the football, but she made it a point to ask about T.J. Watt, specifically.
Rooney couldn’t praise Watt enough for the impact he makes on this team. However, the Steelers president also noted that he didn’t believe Watt was healthy after he came back. Here’s some of what he had to say during the interview:
"“The statistics of what we did with him and without him are pretty drastic. So we missed him, for sure, while he wasn’t in there. Even though I’m not sure if he was ever one hundred percent when he came back, he’s a difference-maker. If we can stay healthy… I think we can have a good defense next year.”"
This shouldn’t come as a major surprise. After finally returning to the field in Week 10, Watt got off to a pretty slow start. It was later reported that he was dealing with a rib injury — one that landed him on the injury report often in the second half of the season.
Steelers will take a step forward if T.J. Watt is fully healthy in 2023
Towards the tail end of the season, it finally seemed like Watt was returning to DPOY form. He was disruptive and played with a different gear than he did for most of the 2022 season. This was an encouraging sight to see.
Since entering the league as a first-round pick back in 2017, the Pittsburgh Steelers have gone 1-10 in games that T.J. Watt hasn’t played. This year, they were on pace to be one of the worst teams in history in sacks per game when the reigning Defensive Player of the Year wasn’t available to them.
It stands to reason that this team will be much better once Watt returns. When he was healthy in 2019 and 2020, the Steelers had a top-three defense in back-to-back seasons, and he was the main reason why. Watt turned just 28 years old back in October and there’s no reason to believe that the best isn’t yet to come. Of course, that will be contingent upon how healthy he is moving forward.
T.J. Watt recently decided that he will not take part in the Pro Bowl games this year, which he claims is unrelated to injury. Let’s hope Pittsburgh’s best player can stay healthy for a full season in 2023.