Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats has a unique perspective on the injury T.J. Watt suffered on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. In the divisional round of the 2017 playoffs against the Denver Broncos, Moats suffered a similar injury. The former player turned podcaster, joined the PM Team W/ Poni & Mueller Tuesday afternoon to discuss the timeline for Watt’s possible return to the field.
“Me being a guy who has torn his pec as well, not off the bone. I know what it felt like at six weeks. I personally didn’t feel like I was ready to go out and play in an NFL game,” Moats said. “Now T.J. Watt, I personally feel like he will be able to, if anybody can it would be him. But I’m just not as optimistic that it’s going to be this clean six weeks.”
Moats tore his pec muscle in what turned out to be the last game of the 2017 season in Denver in the divisional playoff round. He did not have to return in the season but goes on to talk about how the injury could respond for Watt during in-season rehab.
“You’re talking about a tendon that is connected to your chest, but it also dictates your shoulder as well. In terms of where your bicep connects to the shoulder, which is on your pec muscle,” Moats said. “Anything you’re doing in terms of extending your arm, the bull rush that hurts. The long arm that he loves that hurts. That’s without contact. Now you’re talking about doing it at the NFL level with guys on game day. I’m a little bit concerned about the six-week point that not being fully ready to go.”
Watt has been a hurtling ball of fire in virtually every play of his career. The Steelers and Mike Tomlin need him on the field to get the best version of themselves on defense, but they did sign him to a four-year contract worth $112 million last offseason and they cannot afford to make the same mistake the Houston Texans made with his brother. The Texans allowed his brother to rush back from injuries that ultimately diminished him. J.J. Watt is still very good when he is on the field, but he is not the three-time Defensive Player of the Year anymore.
“It took me longer than six weeks, even when I came back and we were starting practices, you have to be smart with this thing. If it’s a situation where you are pushing and pulling you might have to go ahead and take a back seat on this particular play to save it for the long term,” Moats said. “We are talking about T.J. Watt that is not in his makeup. On gameday he is going to do whatever it takes to make plays.”
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Moats makes a salient point, he was a competent NFL player but he was not on the same level as the All-Pro Watt. This is the former Defensive Player of the Year’s biggest strength and during rehab, maybe his biggest weakness. Brother J.J. had a similar injury in 2019 early in the season and had to undergo surgery to repair the tear. He returned late in the year which is almost unheard of with that type of injury, but he was not as effective when he did play later that season. He did not fully recover until the offseason.
“When you are asking could he come back in six weeks? What are the pros and cons to that, why I might not be as optimistic as everybody else. That’s largely it, he can’t be thinking about an injury, he can’t be playing to protect himself,” Moats said. “He plays 100%, 100 mph and that’s what makes him, him. I just don’t know if 6 weeks is going to allow him to do some of the things that we are accustomed to seeing from him.”
A half-speed T.J. Watt is better than most of the edge rushers in the NFL and getting him back at full strength for the second half of the season would be an optimal result. The Steelers have to think long-term and ensure that he is as close to 100% as possible when he returns to the field. They should not hold him back if he is ready, but this is a young football team that is building towards contention. The offense is significantly behind the defense at this point and risking Watt’s long-term health to go 9-8 is bad business and the Pittsburgh Steelers are long-term thinkers.
What do you think Steeler Nation? Do you agree that they need to be careful with Watt’s rehab? Comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.
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