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Rod Woodson: Steelers defense will be ‘awesome’ if...

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is projected to be one of the league’s best in 2023.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the league’s best edge rushers in T.J. Watt.

The 2021 Defensive Player of the Year missed nearly two months in 2022 with a partially torn pectoral muscle, and his absence was felt as the Steelers went 1-6 with Watt sidelined. It’s no surprise that the Steelers missed his presence on the field, which was a large part in Pittsburgh missing the playoffs for the first time since 2019. If Watt stays healthy, though, Steelers icon Rod Woodson believes the team can return to the postseason.

“I think if T.J. can stay healthy for the defense, he brings so much to the defense, if he’s healthy they’re winning,” Woodson told CBS Pittsburgh reporter Celina Pompeani. “I think they’ll be a solid defense, they’ll go from there ... [Watt] is gonna be the key. If he stays healthy, the defense is gonna be awesome.”

The Steelers defense allowed over 25 points per game without Watt, and just under 16.9 points per game with him in the lineup. They also allowed 100 yards fewer per game with Watt, and had four times the sacks with him than without him.

Pittsburgh’s offense struggled last year amidst Kenny Pickett’s rookie campaign, but with him a year older now and a little more experienced, it should take some pressure off the defense. However, that doesn’t mean Watt and the defense should take their foot off the gas.

With the combination of an improved, more experienced offense and a rejuvenated defense fueled by Watt’s return, the Steelers have reason to be optimistic going into the new season.