Steelers dodge a bullet with early diagnosis for scary T.J. Watt knee injury

Injuries to your best players are never good, but this might be the best-case scenario for T.J. Watt.

Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers / Rob Carr/GettyImages
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Steelers fans were sweating bullets as T.J. Watt fell face down on the muddy surface at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Late in the third quarter, Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley rolled to his right and Watt jumped to interrupt the passing lane as the ball was in the air. We all cringed when we saw what had happened to the Steelers star.

On that play, defensive lineman, Montravius Adams, came flying in and collided with Watt's left knee as he planted. During the slow-motion replay, you could see Watt's knee hyperextend. The former Defensive Player of the Year immediately fell to the ground -- repeatedly slamming his fist off the wet grass in pain.

This was a horrifying scene for Steelers fans. Though Pittsburgh went on to defeat the Ravens in a sloppy 17-10 contest, many of us realized the outcome of this game wouldn't matter much if it meant that Watt would be unable to suit up for a potential playoff berth. But perhaps there's hope.

Shortly after the game, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Watt is believed to have suffered a sprained MCL in the season finale against the Ravens. Watt reportedly wanted to re-enter the contest, but Mike Tomlin and the team would not allow him to do so.

This is the best news we could have hoped for, considering the circumstances. With the amount of pain Watt appeared to be in, it's a wonder the knee injury wasn't more serious.

Minutes later, however, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that this was a Grade 3 MCL sprain. This is typically an injury that would cause a player to miss multiple weeks.

By this timetable, Watt would be absent for a potential Steelers playoff run. But then again, physicians and medical experts might not know T.J. Watt like we do. Don't rule him out from a potential playoff appearance just yet.

T.J. Watt was having an incredible game before the knee injury

It's not hard to see why Watt wanted back in the game either. After recording 2.0 sacks and 3 tackles for a loss, via ESPN stats, the Steelers star had a chance to become just the second player in NFL history to earn two 20-sack seasons in his career. Ironically, the only player to ever do so is his older brother., J.J. Watt.

T.J. was on pace for a remarkable performance against the Ravens prior to exiting the game with a knee injury, and his multi-sack performance could put him in serious discussion for the 2023 Defensive Player of the Year award voted on by the Associated Press later this month. Finishing the game and potentially earning another sack could have catapulted his odds of doing so.

Regardless of whether or not Watt can accomplish such a feat, he already has a Hall of Fame resume. Earlier in the week, Watt became the first player in Pittsburgh Steelers history to be voted Team MVP four times. This is in addition to having a load of personal accolades (including a DPOY award) already under his belt).

The news of the sprained MCL is as good as any of us could have hoped for, and it would suggest that T.J. Watt might be able to suffer through and play next week if the Steelers indeed find themselves in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Here's to hoping our best player has a rapid recovery from what looked to be a scary knee injury in Week 18.

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