PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers placed star pass-rusher T.J. Watt on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday, dealing another significant blow to a maligned defense ahead of an AFC North matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.
Watt recorded just two combined tackles against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, returning after a one-week absence caused by knee and hip injuries suffered against the Detroit Lions.
Watt has missed two games this season because of injury but still has 12.5 sacks in nine games.
The Steelers have already been seriously impacted by COVID-19 this season with both quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick missing time with positive tests. Returner Ray-Ray McCloud is still in the protocol and missed Sunday's loss to the Bengals.
Because he was vaccinated, Roethlisberger tested out of the protocol early with two negative results, but he was still sidelined for seven days.
Fitzpatrick was in the protocol for the full 10 days.
With Watt likely out Sunday, the Steelers will turn to Derrek Tuszka and Taco Charlton to fill his role, along with fellow starting outside linebacker Alex Highsmith. Tuszka, who was a seventh-round pick of the Denver Broncos, has played 115 defensive snaps with the Steelers this season. And Charlton, a former first-round pick signed off the practice squad earlier this season, has played 115 snaps in five appearances with the Steelers. The team's depth at the position is further compromised after dealing a disgruntled Melvin Ingram III to the Kansas City Chiefs ahead of the trade deadline.
Just before the season, the Steelers signed Watt to a deal that made him the NFL's highest-paid defensive player.