The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without star linebacker T.J. Watt when they face the Buffalo Bills in Sunday’s wild-card game, head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed on Tuesday.
Watt suffered a knee injury in the second half of the Steelers’ 17-10 win over a much-changed Baltimore Ravens side on Saturday, a result which saw them finish 10-7 for the season.
That proved enough for a postseason place as their chief rivals for a wild-card spot, the Jacksonville Jaguars, were beaten by the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
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Pittsburgh will face a team tipped by many for the Super Bowl in their first playoff game when they travel to Highmark Stadium on Sunday, and they will do so without the man whose 19 sacks led the league throughout the regular season.
Watt was always likely to miss the Steelers’ first playoff game after his brother J.J. Watt revealed he had suffered a grade two medial collateral ligament sprain which would require a “couple of weeks of rest”, and Tomlin confirmed he would be unable to start the postseason on Tuesday.
“Obviously playing without T.J. is significant, but to be quite honest with you, we’ve played without a lot of people this year,” Tomlin said.
Best case scenario for TJ.
Grade 2 MCL sprain.
Everything else looks pristine.
Couple weeks of rest/recovery.
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) January 7, 2024
“It’s just another opportunity for us to strike a blow for the team and to display what team really means, a collective of individuals that work together in an effort to produce an outcome.
“It’s not going to be a one-man job in terms of replacing T.J. Just like I stood before you and said similar things when Cameron Heyward missed a block of games, it is going to be a by committee approach.
“We better strengthen our output in other areas because T.J. is one of a kind, but that’s ball. There’s an attrition component to it. That’s what makes it the ultimate team game.”
Tomlin also confirmed Mason Rudolph will keep his place at quarterback against the Bills, with the Steelers having won three straight games since installing him as their starter.
“We’re just simply staying with the hot hand and not disrupting the apple cart,” Tomlin said of the decision to stick with Rudolph over Kenny Pickett.
“We’ve been in some tough circumstances. He’s delivered, we’ve delivered and so we will continue in that vein.”
Coach Tomlin speaks to the media ahead of our Wild Card Round game against the Bills. @PNCBank
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 9, 2024