HomeFootball DirtT.J. Watt's MCL Sprain Sparks Concern for Steelers

T.J. Watt’s MCL Sprain Sparks Concern for Steelers

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The Steelers gave their postseason chances a considerable boost on Saturday, but the victory may have come at a substantial cost. Edge rusher T.J. Watt left the game with a knee injury, and initial tests indicate a neither best- or worst-case scenario.

Watt is believed to have suffered an MCL sprain, as first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Defensive Player of the Year candidate asked to return to the contest – a 17-10 win over the Ravens – but he was not allowed to risk further injury. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network adds that Watt is thought to be dealing with a Grade 3 sprain, which would likely require a multi-week recovery timeline, albeit a much shorter one than a tear or an ACL injury.

Further testing will be done in the near future, and a clearer diagnosis will emerge at that point. An MRI is scheduled for tomorrow, per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. If the initial fears are proven to be accurate, however, Watt will face a steep challenge to be able to suit up for the Steelers’ wild-card matchup should they qualify for the postseason. Missing him would deal a massive blow to Pittsburgh’s defense.

Watt entered Saturday’s game tied for the league lead in sacks with 17. He added a pair before colliding with teammate Montravius Adams and being forced out of the contest. The 2021 DPOY earned a sixth consecutive Pro Bowl invitation days ago, and he is on track for a fourth first-team All-Pro nod. Given his continued elite production after an injury-shortened 2022 campaign, the Steelers’ edge contingent would be severely shorthanded if he were to miss time.

However, Pittsburgh would still have fellow starter Alex Highsmith available in the event the team managed to reach the wild-card round. Highsmith signed a four-year, $68MM extension this offseason after establishing himself as a productive complement to Watt. The former third-rounder posted seven sacks this season while remaining healthy for every contest. The latter point is a signficant one given not only Watt’s injury, but the signficant ailments suffered by All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and multiple inside linebackers which have left the Steelers’ defense shorthanded.

Provided the ongoing Texans-Colts game does not end in a tie, Pittsburgh will require a loss by at least one of Jacksonville or Buffalo to claim a wild-card berth. In the event the Steelers find themselves playoff-bound, their recent momentum with quarterback Mason Rudolph at the helm could make them a more difficult opponent than their play through much of the season would have suggested. Pending Watt’s tests, though, his health status will be a major storyline to watch.

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