Pittsburgh Steelers defense moves closer to full strength with return of T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick


PITTSBURGH — After playing without several key members of their defense a week ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense will be closer to full strength against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

T.J. Watt, who missed Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, doesn’t have an injury designation in the final practice report. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is good to go after a 10-day stay on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Meanwhile, Joe Haden, who also missed the Chargers game, is questionable.

“I’m real happy about it,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Thursday. “The possibility of getting the other guys back too, that always helps. The last time we played them, we were down a couple of people too. Having those guys come back and be able to play and stuff like that means a lot to us. It means a lot to everybody who’s out there on the field because they’re used to playing with each other.”

Watt, who missed the Week 3 loss to the Bengals with a groin injury, hurt his knee and hip in a fourth-quarter sack against the Detroit Lions two weeks ago, while Haden sprained his foot in the same game.

“Just got rolled up weird and knee felt a little unstable at the time,” Watt said. “Went to get up, and when I got up, I realized I had a lot of discomfort in my hip and couldn’t really reach overhead and a lot of stuff and felt discomfort both my knee and hip.

“And luckily, it wasn’t anything too serious, and I feel a lot better this week.”

Watt was a full participant in Friday’s practice after being limited all week, while Haden missed Wednesday but was limited Thursday and Friday. Fitzpatrick returned to practice Thursday.

“When you’ve got 10 days you’re not able to work out, you think you’d be in not great shape, but I came back yesterday for my first practice and I felt fine,” Fitzpatrick said Friday, adding he had little to no symptoms outside of a headache. “There were no struggles running, no struggles breathing, nothing like that. I feel good.”

For Fitzpatrick, missing Sunday’s game was a rarity.

“That was my first missed game since I’ve been in the league, and it was very different just watching, especially a very important game for us on Sunday night against a great team,” he said.

While the trio stayed at home watching the Steelers’ defense try to keep up with Justin Herbert and the Chargers’ offense, they leaned on each other in a group chat.

“It just sucks,” Watt said of not playing. “It sucks texting Minkah and Joe all last game because you see all the effort guys are giving and trying to spark the team with guys like Cam Sutton and Cam Heyward. It sucks when you know you could help, but I just wasn’t healthy enough to help. It’s a helpless feeling, but at the same time, it’s more motivation to get back and get healthy as quick as possible so I can start impacting games again.”



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