Author, journalist, and CBS Sports NFL analyst Cody Benjamin released pieces listing the most important non-QB players for each NFL team. In the case of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Benjamin listed pass rusher T.J. Watt as a player the team can least afford to lose this upcoming season.
Following a historic 2021 season, which saw him tie the single-season record in sacks and win defensive player of the year, Watt would sustain a pectoral injury in their Week 1 win over the Cincinnati Bengals that would sideline him until Week 10 against the New Orleans Saints. During his absence, the Steelers went an abysmal 2-6 before their bye week. After his return, the team went 7-2 and almost made the playoffs.
Watt's absence, according to Benjamin, was felt throughout the entire team, even with teammate Alex Highsmith producing at a high level during that period.
"Alex Highsmith filled out the stat sheet filling in for Watt in 2022, but the latter's injury-related absence was still felt throughout Mike Tomlin's defense. This remains a team built around that side of the ball, and Watt's ferocious edge work can't be replicated."
Since his rookie year in 2017, the Steelers' all-time record when he plays a full game is 59-26-2, according to Statmuse. A healthy Watt with an improved offense should make for a more formidable team in 2023.