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What Would The Steelers Record Be If Star Edge Rusher T.J Watt Hadn’t Gotten Hurt In Week 1?

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What Would The Steelers Record Be If Star Edge Rusher T.J Watt Hadn’t Gotten Hurt In Week 1?

The Pittsburgh Steelers came off their bye week with a 2-6 record and were looking to right the ship after such an unpleasant start to the season. One thing Steelers fans were keeping their eye on leading up to their Week 8 matchup with the New Orleans Saints, was how rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett would look after coming off his first bye week as a starting quarterback in the NFL.

But by far the biggest story was the return of last season’s Defensive Player of the Year and star edge rusher, T.J. Watt.

Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt celebrates a tackle during the first quarter of the Steelers’ Week 8 matchup against the New Orleans Saints (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images).

Watt was coming off of the Injured Reserve list after suffering a torn pectoral muscle during the Steelers’ Week 1 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. All eyes were on Watt as he made his home debut for the 2022 season. Although his stat line was nothing to write home about, his presence was definitely felt both on and off the field.

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Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (right) and safety Tre Norwood (left) celebrate a turnover during the Steelers’ Week 1 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. / Photo Credit: Associated Press Jeff Dean

On his first play from scrimmage, Watt was in the backfield causing disruption which got the roar from the 66,000 plus fans in attendance at Acrisure Stadium. For the first time all season, the defense as a whole unit looked sharp and played their most complete game of the season.

Holding the Saints to just 10 points and 186 total yards, one would have to think Watt being on the field was a significant part of the defense’s success and Steelers fans can’t help but wonder what their record would be if Watt was healthy all season.

What Would The Steelers Record Be If Watt Had Stayed Healthy This Season?

In the game of football, it is tough to imagine one player having such an impact that it would singlehandedly play a role in a team’s record and playoff chances, especially when it comes to a player who is not the quarterback or on the offense period. But with the impact Watt had for the Steelers in Cincinnati, where he recorded six tackles, one sack, one interception and seemingly was in the Bengals’ backfield on every play, it would be hard to think that the Steelers wouldn’t have a few more wins under their belt this season.

Although it hurts to look back on the first eight weeks of the season and think to ourselves what could have been, it hard to think Watt’s presence doesn’t affect the outcomes of both the Week 2 matchup against the Steelers’ arch-rival New England Patriots and the Week 4 matchup against the young and upcoming New York Jets, who have also one of the biggest surprises so far this season in the NFL.

Both games came down to the final minutes and were games that could have been won if the defense could have made a stop or two in the late stages of the game. I believe Watt’s presence would have made a big enough impact to swing both games in the Steelers’ favor and that would have given them a 5-4 record and kept them right in the thick of the AFC North race during the second half of the season.

The defense struggled to put pressure on the opposing quarterback in both games and only managed one sack over the course of the two losses. Not having Watt on defense proved to be detrimental to the Steelers’ defense and gave both the Patriots and Jets opportunities to focus their game plan on stopping Cam Heyward and Alex Highsmith.

What Are The Expectations For The Steelers Defense For The Rest Of The Season?

I don’t expect to see a dominant performance like what we saw last week against the Saints, but I do however expect to see a big improvement over the second half of the season which will give the Steelers a few more wins than many thought were possible just a few short weeks ago.

When looking at the Steelers’ upcoming schedule, there are not too many potent offenses left to face. They have two games yet against the Baltimore Ravens, but history shows the Steelers have a good track record of keeping quarterback Lamar Jackson in check.

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Linebacker T.J. Watt strips the ball from Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson during the 2021 Week 13 matchup. / Photo Credit: USA Today

I believe now that the Steelers are at full strength defensively, going forward Steelers fans will see at least a seven-win season. The added strength to the defense will also take some of the pressure off of Pickett and the offense as a whole which will be a tremendous help for an offense as young as the Steelers.

The Steelers will have their second shot at Joe Burrow and the Bengals this Sunday in Pittsburgh, and we will see if Watt can have an even better game than he did in Week 1.

What do you think? Do you think the defense will be as good as we originally thought it would be at the beginning of the season? Tell us what you think in the comment section below or on my Twitter @collinlschmitt.

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