Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Steelers injury update: TJ Watts in, 2 CBs out, starting O-lineman ‘questionable’

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On Friday, November 11, the Pittsburgh Steelers released their third and final injury report of the week, which included some notable developments. However, the new injury news was overshadowed by a one-word response from fullback TJ Watt, who said “yes” when asked if he would play against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

“It was a long time coming. I’m feeling really, really good about the week I’ve had and I’m looking forward to playing and being back at Acrisure Stadium and getting the fans involved.” said Watts during a media scrum.

Watt has not played since Pittsburgh’s season-opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 11, when he was credited with six solo tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit, two passes defended and an interception before suffering a chest injury that necessitated a stay on injured reserve.

More good news: Defender Larry Ogunjobi (knee) participated fully in practice on Friday and was removed from the status report. Additionally, long snapper Christian Kuntz (ribs) and deep cornerback Levi Wallace (shoulder) were full participants for the third straight day.

Meanwhile, the Steelers’ other injury news isn’t so good. Cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring) and William Jackson III (back) were already ruled out against New Orleans.

Witherspoon missed four games with a hamstring injury, then attempted a return in Week 8 against the Eagles. But he played so poorly that he was benched at halftime in favor of former undrafted free agent James Pierre, who is set to start Sunday in his place at left cornerback. As for Jackson, he came to the Steelers with a back injury after being acquired in a trade deadline deal in exchange for a late-round draft pick in 2025.

Perhaps more notably, left starter Kevin Dotson suffered an abdominal injury late in the week. He was listed as a restricted competitor in Friday’s training session and is doubtful for Sunday. Despite Dotson’s game being up and down in 2022 — and he received death threats after his performance during the Week 6 win over the Buccaneers — he’s played 100% of the team’s offensive snaps this season, according to the Pro Football Reference.

If Dotson is unable to play, the Steelers could turn to Kendrick Green, who is yet to play for a game this year after 15 starts at center in 2021. Alternatively, the team could turn to JC Hassenauer, but Mike Tomlin might not want to injure his backup center before giving Green a chance.

Then there’s outside linebacker Malik Reed, who is also listed as questionable for the game against the Saints because he was “apologized for personal reasons.”

Last but not least, field kicker Matthew Wright will step in for Chris Boswell (groin) for the first time in two years. In 2020, Wright appeared in three games while Boswell struggled with hip and groin injuries. He made all 11 kicks he attempted, including four field goals.

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