The Pittsburgh Steelers have announced T.J. Watt has officially been cleared to return to return to practice. Watt was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list after experiencing tightness in his hamstring following the team’s run test the day players reported to Latrobe. During the preseason, a player can be placed on the PUP list as long have they have not participated in any practices and can return at any time. If Watt would have remained on the PUP list into the regular season, he would not have been eligible to return until after Week 6.
Entering his third year for the Steelers, Watt led the team in sacks with 13.0 in 2018, earning his first Pro Bowl selection. Adding 68 tackles, 12 of which were for loss, and 21 quarterback hits, Watt has emerged as one of the Steelers premier young defenders. For 2019, Watt was listed at #93 in the NFL’s Top 100 Players list.
Watt also faced a similar injury which cost him a lot of practice time early in training camp last season. Being very cautious with the injury, Watt returned during the preseason and was able to play in all 16 games in 2018. With Watt looking to be the Steelers most dynamic playmaker in 2019, Coach Mike Tomlin has not been in a rush to get him back onto the practice field before he was ready.
It is unclear if Watt will be available for Friday night’s preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Heinz Field. With a scheduled off day on Monday, Watt is should be thoroughly evaluated as to how his hamstring responds to tonight’s workout. Even if healthy, there are certain to be a large number of first-string players not participating Friday night.
In his absence, players such as Anthony Chickillo and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi have both worked with the first-team defense. While Chickillo has also missed some time due to minor injuries, Adeniyi has turned some heads with his camp performance to date. As Watt works his way back into his starting role, both players are certain to still receive first-team reps.
Steelers Family Fest is in it’s third year as a part of the preseason activities. It is an annual practice held at Heinz Field.