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Steelers start T.J. Watt’s 21-day window, send Calvin Austin III to season-ending IR

The Steelers fourth-round draft pick had to be placed on the roster today or spend the season on the Reserve/Injured List.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers enter their week of preparation for Week 8 against the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles with a much better injury situation than in the last few weeks. With the bye week following their next matchup, the Steelers could be getting some players back and healthy for the second half of the season. Until then, there is one player who the Steelers had to make a decision on for this week.

After using all of the 21-day window in which he must be placed back on the roster or stay on the Reserve/Injured List (IR) for the remainder of the season, Calvin Austin III has NOT been officially placed on the Steelers 53-man roster. Instead, the Steelers announced they have opened the 21-day window for T.J. Watt to begin practicing in which he can return from IR.

Injured at the end of regulation of the Steelers Week 1 overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, it was first believed Watt would miss the entire season with a pectoral injury. Finding out surgery was not required for the pec, Watt had a much better diagnosis and also chose to have another procedure done on his knee while he recovered from his first injury.

Starting the window, the Steelers could activate T.J. Watt to the 53-man roster at any time they choose within the next 21 days. With Coach Tomlin downplaying Watt’s involvement for this week, seeing him on the field in Philadelphia may not be likely. But with the Steelers bye week following this Sunday’s game, there is an excellent chance Watt could return on schedule in Week 9 as the Steelers host the New Orleans Saints.

In Week 6, the Pittsburgh Steelers got their first victory since drafting T.J. Watt in a game in which he didn’t play. Unfortunately, the Steelers are only 1–5 in Watt’s absence so far in 2022.

Calvin Austin III was the Steelers fourth-round draft pick at selection 138 of the 2022 NFL draft. Coming out of Memphis, Austin dazzled spectators in Latrobe at Steelers training camp with his quickness and burst as he had several big plays in the time he had on the field. But during a closed practice on August 12, the day before the Steelers first preseason game, Austin apparently suffered a significant foot injury which held him out of all three of the Steelers preseason games and landed him on IR after the mandatory time of being on the roster in order to be eligible to return.

With Austin returning to practice on October 5, the Steelers had 21 days to officially place him on the 53-man roster or else he will remain on IR for the remainder of the 2022 season. Unfortunately, the Steelers chose not to bring back Austin onto the roster whether it be for injury or other reasons, and he will spend the remainder of the season on IR.

The only other player currently designated to return from IR other than T.J. Watt is safety Damontae Kazee who had his 21-day window started last week. The Steelers can have up to eight players return from IR during the season as long as they spent at least one day on the 53-man roster and have missed at least four games while being on the list. DeMarvin Leal is another player expected to return later in 2022.

In his press conference on Tuesday, MIke Tomlin seemed dismissive of the return of Austin, especially from a utilization standpoint.

“It just hasn’t been high priority for me at this juncture” Tomlin responded when asked about if Austin would be ready. “This guy hasn’t played in a stadium yet anyways. He hasn’t played in a preseason stadium. So, it’s more about development for him, and that’s the perspective that I have. I’m just being realistic, up or down, active or inactive. His overall readiness this weekend, it’s probably not a high probability, and I’m just being straightforward.”

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain as the Pittsburgh Steelers begin their preparation to face the Eagles this Sunday in Philadelphia.