Pittsburgh Steelers EDGE T.J. Watt has been ruled out for the Wild Card Round of the 2024 NFL Playoffs vs. the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters on Tuesday. Watt was injured in Week 18 vs. the Baltimore Ravens and was diagnosed with an MCL sprain in his left knee. Let’s look at the impact of the injury on the Steelers for this matchup.
TJ Watt injury impact
This injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for Pittsburgh, which barely snuck into the postseason to begin with. The Steelers also announced QB Mason Rudolph will start ahead of Kenny Pickett vs. Buffalo. We know that conditions in Buffalo are going to be bad and weather will put an emphasis on defense. So the Steelers being without their top defensive player is not good.
Watt finished the regular season leading the NFL with 19 sacks in 17 games. He also forced four fumbles and had one interception with 48 tackles. The Steelers still have a strong defensive unit but it was anchored by Watt. There’s no way the Steelers can replace him on the line in a matchup where pressuring the QB would be huge. Bills QB Josh Allen is a turnover machine and knowing he doesn’t have to run from Watt should only help his mentality.
LBs Alex Highsmith and Markus Golden will now have to step up on the line to get after the QB. Highsmith finished this season with seven sacks while Golden had four, the two top numbers on the team behind Watt. The game plan shouldn’t change much for Pittsburgh. You still need to shut down Allen and make sure he doesn’t kill you on the ground while limiting big plays to Stefon Diggs.
The Bills enter this game favorites at -10 on the spread on DraftKings Sportsbook. The over/under is down to 36.5 points as a result of the weather forecast, which is expected to be rainy, snowy and cold. Again, emphasizing the importance of Watt and leaning on the defense to try and win this game.