The Pittsburgh Steelers have placed TJ Watt on injured reserve because of a pectoral muscle injury. The franchise announced the signing of also edge-rusher David Anenih.
Adam Schefter, an ESPN insider, reported that Watt will not need surgery and could return after six weeks, instead of missing the rest of the season.
The concern arose when the linebacker left the field in the last quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals, when the AFC North franchise won in overtime 23-20. Initial reports indicated a problem in his pectoral region, and the star linebacker was sidelined for the remainder of the game.
The injured reserve protocol requires a player to miss a minimum of four games, which would make Watt eligible to return in Week 6 against the Tampa Bay Buccanners. However, according to Schefter, he may not return until the Pittsburgh bye in week 9.
He is coming off one of his best years of his career, matching the all-time record for most sacks in a single regular season, with 22.5. Watt had six tackles and a sack, helping Pittsburgh force five turnovers.
Without their leading tackler, the Steelers will rely on Malik Reed and the expectation of replacing him at the right level to keep the defense from falling too far behind. The Pennsylvania franchise faces the New England Patriots on Sunday, opening the regular season at home, Acrisure Stadium.
Anenih, meanwhile, may have the opportunity to make his NFL debut. Signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent in April, he had seven tackles and three sacks in three preseason games. The 23-year-old was on Tennessee’s practice squad.