The Pittsburgh Steelers came away with a huge Week 1 win, defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in a wild 23-20 overtime win on Saturday afternoon. There were both winners and losers for the team, but the organization, collectively, may have experienced a serious loss. Star edge rusher, T.J. Watt reportedly has a torn pectoral muscle after walking off the field late in the fourth quarter. The injury would be a devastating blows to a defense that looked unbelievable against Cincinnati for the most part. There is no way to replace the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but the show must go on and the Steelers need to figure out some sort of solution to help replace his productivity.
While there are many unknowns surrounding the situation, the positive here is that general manager, Omar Khan went to get outside help before the season started. He traded a sixth round pick in 2023 for Denver Broncos edge rusher, Malik Reed and a seventh round selection. Reed has 34 games of starting experience and had a combined 13 sacks the last two years in Denver. He is no Watt, but should help to bridge the gap better than anyone who was on the roster before the trade.
The Steelers draft capital for next year is rather weak. It is unlikely Khan will give out any more picks in a potential trade to bolster the edge rusher spot. Quincy Roche could have been an option prior to this weekend as he remained on the New York Giants practice squad, but due to injuries, was elevated to the active roster and now cannot be signed to the active roster by another team.
The biggest name to keep an eye on is veteran pass rusher, Jason Pierre-Paul. He had 12 sacks in 28 starts the last two seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and while he isn’t what he used to be, could bring a veteran presence into the locker room. The defense could take comfort in the fact that Paul arriving provides a solid amount of depth on the outside. At 33 years old, he still has some left in the tank.
The veteran is coming off of shoulder surgery, but if Pittsburgh were to reach out, he would have to pass a physical in order to sign a contract. There shouldn’t be a reason why the team won’t entertain the idea. They will need all the help they can get to replace the production of Watt if he is lost for the year. A veteran edge rusher is perfect to help out on the outside.
Pierre-Paul has had a decorated career. He has been a part of two Super Bowl victories and was elected to the Pro Bowl back in 2020 at age 31. He has 603 total tackles and 91.5 sacks to go along with 21 forced fumbles and 10 fumble recoveries since he entered the league in 2010. He may be on the older side, but Steelers fans should want someone with more experience and a proven track record rather than a practice squad guy being elevated.
Hamilcar Rashed Jr. recently was placed on injured reserve and is not an option to be promoted at this time, so if no outside move is made, the Steelers will elevate Delontae Scott from the practice squad for depth purposes with Alex Highsmith, Reed and Jamir Jones getting the most snaps. Either way, the drop off without Watt is significant.
The organization waived familiar linebacker, Tuzar Skipper about a month ago who was dealing with an unknown injury. Depending on his health, the team could reach out to him. It could be for him to land on the practice squad initially, but have a chance to be elevated if he is 100% and able to make an impact on defense. Skipper started two games for the Tennessee Titans a year ago.
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What do you think the Steelers should do in an attempt to replace Watt’s production? Let us know in the comments below!