The Pittsburgh Steelers may have thought they could win without T.J. Watt in Sunday’s game against the Bengals and their struggling offensive line. After all, the Bengals had given up nine sacks coming into Week 3. That’s why it was so shocking when the Steelers failed to record a sack for the first time in 75 consecutive games.
In failing to extend the NFL-record sack streak, the Steelers showed that they don’t have the defensive depth to overcome the loss of a star like Watt. So if you’re going to bet on football in Week 4, you may want to know whether Watt will come back to lead the Steelers’ defense against the Bears.
I’ll be taking a look at the Steelers’ defense and Watt’s impact below. Read on to find out if the Steelers’ defense can bounce back in Week 4 if their best player returns.
The Steelers Missed Both Starting Linebackers on Sunday
While T.J. Watt’s absence got all the headlines on Sunday, the Steelers also played without their other starting linebacker, Alex Highsmith. The two Steelers linebackers could only watch as their backups failed to generate any pressure on Joe Burrow. Strangely, Highsmith and Watt suffered the same type of injury in the same game against the Raiders two weeks ago.
Watt’s Return Could Help Prevent Big Plays
Without their starting linebacker, the Steelers couldn’t generate any pressure. Joe Burrow took advantage, hitting multiple deep throws, including a 34-yard touchdown to Ja’Marr Chase.
Pittsburgh could have used the pressure that T.J. Watt can generate against the Bengals, but they also missed his presence in the second half against the Raiders in Week 2. After Watt left that game with a groin injury, the Steelers let Derek Carr toss a 61-yard touchdown to Henry Ruggs III. If the T.J. Watt injury doesn’t keep their best defensive player sidelined in Week 4, the Steelers should be able to pressure the quarterback and prevent those deep passes.
T.J. Watt Has Few Equals in the NFL
The Bengals game made it clear that T.J. Watt is the engine that drives this Steelers defense. Watt racked up 15 sacks in 2020 on his way to finishing second in Defensive Player of the Year voting.
Pittsburgh made Watt the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player this offseason, and he was worth every penny in the first two games of 2021. Watt had three sacks in two games before he got hurt, and the Steelers are hoping he’ll pick up right where he left off.
The Steelers’ Defense Should Improve in Week 4 if Watt Returns
The Steelers’ lack of pressure against the Bengals’ offensive line is concerning, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sign of things to come. I think the defense will improve dramatically once T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith return to the field, and that should translate to wins.
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