The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered one of the worst defeats in the NFL in Week 1. The San Francisco 49ers went into Acrisure Stadium and blew their doors off, winning 30-7. To make matters worse for the Steelers, they lost a key member of their defense to a long-term injury.
Defensive tackle Cameron Heyward suffered a groin injury that forced him out of the game against the 49ers in the second quarter. While the injury isn’t of the season-ending variety, he is expected to miss at least eight weeks after undergoing surgery.
This is the second consecutive season that the Steelers are going to be missing a key member of their defense for potentially half of the year. Last year it was star edge rusher T.J. Watt who missed time because of a torn left pectoral.
Replacing a player of Heyward’s caliber, just like Watt last season, is a tall task. It will take a total team effort in the words of head coach Mike Tomlin as no single player can replicate what they are capable of doing.
There are a few players that the Steelers can rely on to play a larger role now that Heyward is sidelined. However, they could also look to go outside of the organization for help. If they take that route, many people have wondered if they would try and talk J.J. Watt out of retirement.
“Watt has joked about coming out of retirement since he made his official announcement,” Noah Strackbein of SI.com wrote. “He’s also opened up about regretting not taking the opportunity to play with his brother T.J., who at the time of his last free agency, was signing a massive deal. Watt didn’t want to take away from that when he chose Arizona over Pittsburgh.
“Well, T.J. is signed and the Steelers need a defensive tackle. Any other team in the league makes that phone call and there’s a slim chance Watt comes out of retirement. For the Steelers, who are still very much a playoff contender even after a blowout Week 1 loss, it’s a completely different conversation.”
When J.J. signed with the Arizona Cardinals in 2021, he was strongly considering joining the Steelers. But, T.J. was in contract negotiations with the team and J.J. didn’t want to sign and take any potential earnings away from his brother, so he headed to the desert instead.
Their other brother, Derek, was also on the Steelers at the time. J.J. has spoken about how special it would have been to suit up with his brothers in the NFL, as it would have been a dream come true for him.
While the idea seems like a pipedream, if any franchise were going to convince Watt to renege on his retirement, it is the Steelers. The chance to play with his brother is the only thing that would likely change his mind about playing at this point.