With the loss of Rob Gronkowski to retirement this offseason, it would be fair to say that the New England Patriots will not pose the same sort of challenge to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 as they have in past years.
Having personally dominated the Steelers on numerous occasions over the years, Gronkowski’s departure was something of a blessing for a Steelers team set to face New England on opening day, but the Patriots have done their best to replace him this offseason with some free agent signings at the position.
Former New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens and Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson was coaxed out of retirement and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was added during free agency, but it appears that the Patriots will not be able to field both new options when they host Pittsburgh in Week 1.
Revealing he has been hit with a four-game ban by the league for his use of performance enhancing drugs over the weekend, Watson will now be unavailable to New England when they take on the Steelers.
Unlike many of the excuses given by players to explain their use of substances from the league’s banned list, it would be fair to say that Watson’s reasoning seems reasonable to believe given his situation at the time. And much as it pains me to be supportive of any member of the Patriots organization, it would appear to be a relatively honest mistake in this instance, if his post of social media is to be believed.
Given his admission of guilt, it also seems highly unlikely that Watson will be appealing the league’s decision.