Swooning Steelers places LB Watt on the COVID list

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PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Steelers placed star-passer rusher TJ Watt on the reserve / COVID-19 list on Monday, giving yet another significant blow to a reviled defense ahead of an AFC North game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Watt recorded just two combined tackles against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, returning after a week-long absence caused by knee and hip injuries against the Detroit Lions.

Watt has missed two games this season due to an injury but still has 12.5 sacks in nine games.

The Steelers have already been severely affected by COVID-19 this season, with both quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick missing time with positive tests. Returning Ray-Ray McCloud is still in the minutes, missing Sunday’s loss to the Bengals.

Because he was vaccinated, Roethlisberger tested early out of the protocol with two negative results, but he was still out of the game for seven days.

Fitzpatrick was on the record for a full 10 days.

With Watt likely out on Sunday, the Steelers will turn to Derrek Tuszka and Taco Charlton to fill his role along with another starting outsider linebacker Alex Highsmith. Tuszka, who was a seventh pick for the Denver Broncos, has played 115 defensive snaps with the Steelers this season. And Charlton, a former first-round pick announced by the coaching staff earlier this season, has played 115 snaps in five appearances for the Steelers. The team’s depth of position has been further compromised after giving a disgruntled Melvin Ingram III to the Kansas City Chiefs ahead of the trade deadline.

Just before the season, the Steelers signed Watt to a deal that made him the NFL’s highest paid defender.

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