PITTSBURGH — T.J. Watt felt a familiar, but still inexplicable jolt as he emerged from the tunnel.
The Steelers star linebacker from Pittsburgh was forced to stand on the sidelines for two months while his left pectoral muscle was repaired. This deprived him of the vitality that sustains him.
Watt must have taken a second to enjoy Sunday’s moment in the sun after a long rehab that was not in sync with his worst start in eight decades.
Watt stated, “You wish that you could freeze the time for just one second.”
This may be out of Watt’s hands. It is possible to find a formula that the Steelers discovered against New Orleans. This could be the basis for a second-half push.
Kenny Pickett ran for 1-yard touchdowns, and Pittsburgh’s revitalized defense — that with Watt’s number. The Saints were stopped late by the Steelers in a 20-10 win. 90 was once more blurred coming off the edge. Watt believes there is still time for them to do something big in 2022.
Watt said, “I’m here make plays and help make the difference in football.” Watt had four tackles and a touchdown. “That’s what it’s going to continue to do.
Watt’s presence is a key factor in any path Pittsburgh (3-6), chooses to take to make a difference down the stretch. The Steelers’ victory over New Orleans (3-7) looked somewhat like their Week 1 loss in Cincinnati, where the defense produced sacks as well as turnovers with a startling frequency.
Watt fell and the game quickly turned sour. The performance of Pittsburgh against the sputtering Saints was a welcome return back to normalcy.
Alex Highsmith, outside linebacker, said that TJ is still that guy. His season total of 8 1/2 was boosted by his two sacks. It was thrilling to have him back. We are confident in our ability to defend him. It’s up to us to continue building on that knowledge.”
The defense wasn’t the only one that found its identity. Pittsburgh ran for 217 yards, a record for this season. This includes 99 yards by Najee Harris and 51 yards by Pickett. They also didn’t give up the ball for the third consecutive season. These games have been won by the Steelers, who are now 3-0.
Pickett completed 18 out of 30 passes for 199 yard without interception. Pickett also recovered from a left ankle injury to convert two late quarterback sneaks. One was a 1-yard dive at 8:40, which gave the Steelers an unassisted 10-point lead.
Pickett stated that “it was a step forward in the right direction.” It’s not exactly where we want or need it to be, but it’s a start.
Instead of staying in the mix in the sub-par NFC South, the Saints dropped their second consecutive.
Andy Dalton was able to connect on 17 of 27 passes for 174 yards, with a touchdown. He also made two late picks. Pickett’s touchdown run was made possible by the first, a Deflection that was caught by Damontae Kazee (recently activated Steelers safety). The Steelers sealed the deal with Pickett’s touchdown run one series after Dalton was caught on a fourth-down quarterback sneak.
Dalton said that he didn’t make enough plays at the end of the game, falling to 3-14 against Pittsburgh. “That was the end result. We couldn’t sustain drives, which led to us not scoring enough points.
The Saints were largely at fault. Although Pickett was sack six times by the defense, the Steelers were penalized six times. This included a pass interference call against Paulson Adebo in the endzone that led to Pickett’s touchdown. New Orleans was flagged ten times for 74 yard total.
“There are just so many different areas that we need to improve on,” Dennis Allen, Saints coach, said. He declined to answer questions about whether he would consider returning to Jameis Winston as quarterback.
The Steelers were able to keep the ball in their hands for almost 39 minutes thanks to New Orleans’ mistakes and a resurgent Pittsburgh running game.
Watt admitted that his legs felt like “wet noodles” once in a while, but he looked very rusty. A defense that looked formidable even with safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was also not impressive, and Watt had to have an emergency appendectomy Saturday.
Kazee made his Steelers debut and filled in for the Steelers with his 13th career interception.
This was the type of momentum-shifting play that Watt had missed. Watt is now back and his unique energy has inspired his teammates.
Kazee stated, “TJ is a different animal.” Kazee said, “He started pumping people up and everyone is screaming. I was like, ‘Oh! You gave me chills on that field.’
Saints: LT James Hurst was concussed and lost.
Steelers: LB Myles Jackson, Pittsburgh’s most skilled tackler, was able to suit up, but he did not play because of a knee injury.
Saints: Los Angeles Rams will be hosting next Sunday’s Saints.
Steelers: Welcome Cincinnati next Sunday