After what we've witnessed over the past seven years, nobody should ever question T.J. Watt's toughness again. In 2021, the All-Pro edge defender played through recurring hip, knee, and groin injuries only to become the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year. Last year, many thought Watt would be shut down for the season after tearing his pectoral muscle, but he returned after the Week 9 bye and helped his team to a 7-2 record late in the back half of the season.
Just before heading into their bye week, the Pittsburgh Steelers pulled off an unlikely win over the Baltimore Ravens, and Watt's presence played a huge factor. The former Defensive Player of the Year recorded a pair of sacks and scooped up a fourth-quarter fumble caused by fellow edge rusher, Alex Highsmith.
What we didn't realize at the time was that Watt was dealing with an injury. Recently, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported that the Steelers star suffered a badly dislocated finger and tore multiple ligaments in Week 5 during the Ravens game. But like we expect a 'Watt' to do, he simply popped it back in place and kept on playing at a high level.
After what T.J. Watt has gone through each of the past two seasons, we certainly don't want to see the best player on the team banged up anymore. While a dislocated finger is never fun, the good news is that Watt isn't going to miss any time with the injury. It's going to take a lot more than that to keep him off the field.
Steelers need to find a way to keep Watt fresh and healthy
So far this year, the Steelers have asked Watt to play more total snaps than nearly every other pass rusher in the business. According to Pro Football Reference, only Raiders' Maxx Crosby has played more snaps at the edge defender position than T.J. Watt this year.
On October 11th, Watt had his 29th birthday. While this doesn't seem old, he now has a lot of wear and tear on his body over the past seven years. In a perfect world, we would love to see Pittsburgh limit his snap count a bit moving forward.
Of course, this means that the team will have to rely more heavily on players like Markus Golden and Nick Herbig to step up when he's not on the field.
This is easier said than done. Even if he's gassed at times, T.J. Watt is still typically the best player on the Pittsburgh Steelers in any given play. However, there's no question that a healthy Watt is essential to the team's success. I guess through five games, we can be thankful that the only thing he has dealt with so far is a dislocated finger. Let's hope he can avoid the injury bug following the bye week.