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PITTSBURGH – Less than a week after being tested positive for COVID-19, Steelers edge rusher TJ Watt was activated from the reserve / COVID-19 list ahead of Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Watt tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday and left the protocols with another negative test Saturday morning.
Watt’s return is crucial for a relentless defense that will already be without cornerback Joe Haden (foot). Defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs (ankle) and inside linebacker Robert Spillane (COVID-19) are also out, while defensive linemen Cam Heyward and Isaiahh Loudermilk missed training on Friday due to illness. None of them received an injury designation in the final training report, but the Steelers are monitoring each over the weekend.
Watt has 12.5 sacks on the season, number two in the NFL after only the Cleveland Browns’ Myles Garrett (14.0).
Because he was isolated due to league protocols, Watt was unable to train with the Steelers during the week, but he remained virtually involved, and defensive coordinator Keith Butler said he was preparing as if they wanted Watt against Ravens.
“I hope we have him, but we have to plan that we do not have him,” Butler said Thursday. “We always have to do that. If we get him, it’s to our advantage.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh also told reporters he planned for the Steelers to have Watt available.
The timing gave Watt an opportunity to further rest the knee and hip injuries he suffered in a draw with the Detroit Lions on Nov. 14. Watt missed the loss to the Los Angeles Chargers with the injuries, but returned the following week against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed a match after being tested positive for COVID-19, and returned after seven days in the record. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ray-Ray McCloud also missed time on the reserve / COVID-19 list, and the Steelers still have two players – Spillane and offensive lineman Joe Haeg – on the record.