Thursday, February 9, 2023

Steelers’ Diontae Johnson, T.J. Watt exit preseason finale vs. Lions with injuries

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USA Today

All eyes are on the Steelers‘ quarterback competition as Pittsburgh wraps up its 2022 preseason schedule against the Lions on Sunday. But all eyes may shift to the injury report in the lead-up to Week 1. Both wide receiver Diontae Johnson and outside linebacker T.J. Watt, arguably two of the team’s top players entering the new year, exited Sunday’s game early. Johnson suffered a shoulder injury, while Watt hurt his knee, and both veterans were quickly ruled out for the remainder of the contest.

There was good news for Steelers fans, as coach Mike Tomlin told CBS Sports’ Evan Washburn that he doesn’t see either injury being a longterm concern, and if it had been a regular season game they may have continued playing.

Weeks removed from signing a two-year, $36.7 million contract extension, Johnson had an early impact in Sunday’s game, hauling in a 38-yard deep ball from Mitchell Trubisky. The Steelers’ No. 1 wide receiver appeared to injure his shoulder upon hitting the ground on the catch, however, and was quickly replaced by fellow pass catchers George Pickens and Steven Sims.

Watt, meanwhile, logged a single tackle before coming up gimpy after a low block from Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson. The 27-year-old pass rusher, who in 2021 inked a $112M extension and went on to win Defensive Player of the Year, tying Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record, is one of the game’s most feared edge defenders. His fellow starter, Alex Highsmith, had already been battling a rib injury suffered at practice this preseason.

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Few players have been as important to the Steelers’ lineup as Johnson and Watt. The former led the team with a career-high 107 catches for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021, while Watt had a league-leading 21 tackles for loss and 39 quarterback hits to go along with his 22.5 sacks.

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