This Is the Best Stretch of Games T.J. Watt Could Have Missed

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Obviously you never want your best player to get injured.  Period, end of story, case closed.  However, T.J. Watt did get injured and now we have to look at the make up of the Pittsburgh Steelers roster and season from that perspective. 

The fear when Watt was initially injured was that he would be out for the rest of the season with a torn pec.  He even said as much as he was walking off the field.  However, it has since been reported that Watt only suffered a partially torn pec with his return possible in six weeks.  

With the Steelers bye week occurring just one week after Watt's expected return, Week 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles, I expect the Steelers to err on the side of caution.  I don't think we see T.J. Watt play again until Week 10.  So let's take a look at that stretch of games for the Steelers that Watt is expected to miss.

Our next three opponents are not a tough test, at least when the Steelers are on defense.  Week 2 opponent, the New England Patriots, looked lousy offensively on Sunday.  They scored just seven points and, to quote Dennis Eckersley, their skill players offensively are a hodgepodge of nothingness.  It also appears Mac Jones may not play due to back spasms that required X-rays after the Patriots Week 1 game.

In Week 3, the Steelers travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns.  While the Browns have taken strides forward the past few seasons, they will be without quarterback Deshaun Watson.  While they still possess a formidable run game, quarterback Jacoby Brissett does not instill fear into any opposing defense.  Also, the Steelers looked good against Bengals' running back Joe Mixon this past weekend, who is very good in his own right.

The timing of this game against Cleveland is important as well.  It is the only divisional opponent the Steelers will take on during the stretch Watt is expected to be out.  The Steelers already managed to squeak out a divisional win, so had they had their choice of which divisional matchup they would have on their schedule during an extended Watt absence it'd definitely be a Watson-less Browns team.  

So for this matchup against the Browns to occur in the first 10 weeks, with Watson returning in Week 11, is fortunate for the Steelers.  It is also beneficial that the Steelers don't play the Bengals again until Week 11 while also avoiding the Baltimore Ravens entirely until Week 14.  If Watt hasn't returned by then, we are having a completely different conversation anyway.

In Week 4, the Steelers take on the New York Jets at home.  The Jets looked equally as bad offensively in Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens as the Patriots did.  Although, Joe Flacco did throw for 307 yards.  However, Flacco is still well passed his prime and it's the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets.  Enough said, right?

After that, admittedly, it does get brutal.  The Steelers face the Buffalo Bills, followed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, and then the Philadelphia Eagles just before the Week 9 bye.  Buffalo is one of, if not the, best offenses in football.  The Buccaneers obviously have Tom Brady.  Even Tua Tagovailoa looks like he is set to take a step forward as the Dolphins quarterback this season, making that a tough matchup on the road.  Then, just before the bye, the Steelers take on one of the best receiving corps in the league in the Eagles.

However, this was going to be a brutal stretch with or without Watt.  Those are four good to great offenses, and squeaking out two wins in that stretch was going to be a test regardless.  That's why it is a well-timed bye week.  The Steelers will need a rest after the Week 5 through 8 gauntlet of games.

So with that being said, I stand by that this is a good stretch of games for Watt to miss, if we had to choose one.  Not only will we have time to adjust to games without him in what should be an easer 3-game stretch, we only play one divisional opponent in the span of games he is expected to miss.  Additionally, that divisional opponent is without their best quarterback because of suspension.  So while obviously you never want your best player to get hurt, this was a potentially lucky stretch of games for the Steelers to have it occur.