Predicting Steelers record without defensive star

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have to tread water until T.J. Watt can return in a month or so.

While the Pittsburgh Steelers got good news in the T.J. Watt injury not being a season-ender, they are going to have to tread water until he gets back in late October at the very soonest.

Watt tore his pectoral muscle in Sunday’s overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, but thankfully, he did not tear the tendon. This is crucial because had the tendon been ruptured, it would have been season over for the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Watt is tough and we know that, but rushing him back is not the best course of action. Let the man recover fully first.

Let’s take a look at the Steelers’ schedule and see what they need to do while he is out for them.

Predicting Pittsburgh Steelers record without T.J. Watt

Looking at the Steelers’ schedule, here are the games Watt is possibly going to miss for them.

  • Week 2: vs. New England Patriots (Sunday, Sept. 18)
  • Week 3: at Cleveland Browns (Thursday, Sept. 22)
  • Week 4: vs. New York Jets (Sunday, Oct. 2)
  • Week 5: at Buffalo Bills (Sunday, Oct. 9)
  • Week 6: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, Oct. 16)
  • Week 7: at Miami Dolphins (Sunday, Oct. 23)

Watt could return in Week 8 at the Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday, Oct. 30) or two weeks later in Week 10 once the Steelers are off their annual bye and host the New Orleans Saints (Sunday, Nov. 13).

The Steelers are fortunate to play four of their six AFC North games after the bye when Watt should be fully healthy in a worst-case scenario. This will allow them to pick up ground in what should be a tight divisional race. Of course, Pittsburgh is at a quarterbacking disadvantage for the time being when it comes to the teams in their division. Thus, they need to win while Watt is out.

In a best-case scenario, Pittsburgh could go 4-2 over the six games Watt will definitely be out to be at a commanding 5-2 heading into the Eagles game. The Week 5 meeting at Buffalo feels like a certain loss anyway. As far as a second, pick between at Cleveland in a rivalry game in Week 3, vs. Tampa Bay in Week 6 and at Miami in Week 7. Pittsburgh should beat New England and New York.

In a worst-case scenario, the Patriots and the Jets are the only teams the Steelers beat without Watt and he is not able to come back until after the bye week. Adding in a road loss to the Eagles, and we could be talking about Pittsburgh being 3-5 and riding a four-game losing streak heading into the bye. This team has too much heart to be that bad, but they are not elite at quarterback…

So between going 5-2 and 3-5, Pittsburgh probably lands somewhere in between. Let’s just say Watt returns in time for the Eagles road game in Week 8. Pittsburgh goes 3-3 in the three games without Watt to be 4-3. Losses would be to Buffalo and two of three between Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Miami. With Watt returning vs. the Eagles, Pittsburgh is at a respectable 5-3 at the bye.

If Pittsburgh is a game above .500 heading into their bye week, the Steelers are in decent shape.

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