Steelers choose not to activate T.J. Watt ahead of game vs. Eagles

PITTSBURGH -- T.J. Watt isn't back ... yet.

The Pittsburgh Steelers opted not to activate the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year from injured reserve ahead of Sunday's matchup against the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles.

His 21-day practice window opened earlier this week. Speaking Friday for the first time since he tore his pectoral muscle in the Week 1 win against the Cincinnati Bengals, Watt was vague on his potential availability.

"I was a [practice] participant today, so I mean, just going about my business, doing what I'm asked, seeing how my body responds to the activity," Watt said Friday. "I feel very encouraged with where I'm at right now."

Watt also had minor arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this month to repair a lingering preseason injury.

"I've had muscle pulls before, and you feel some sort of pop in a snap and immediately know it's not good," Watt said of the pec injury. "It's just a matter of how bad it was, and it just took us 24 to 48 hours to figure out the severity of it."

He added the pectoral was trending toward being 100 percent. Following the knee surgery, Watt was expected to return after the Week 9 bye, sources told ESPN. Now, Watt is on track to return against the New Orleans Saints in Week 10.

"It doesn't matter if I'm coming off of whatever injury, I'm always gonna try to find a way to get better and not just be a slouch and sit on the couch and eat potato chips and ice whatever body part I'm icing," Watt said. "I'm always trying to find a way so that when I come back, the acclimation period is as quick as possible, and I feel like I've done a good job with that. We won't know until I actually play."

Watt hasn't been injured often since the the Steelers selected him in the first round of the 2017 draft, and while he said sitting out is difficult as a competitor, he understands he has to be smart about how he comes back -- especially after the Steelers signed him to a record extension last year.

"I truly love football," Watt said. "I'm not in it for anything else. I just love playing this game. When something's taken away from you, it, it's very unfortunate, but you can take it one or two ways and I'm just trying to take the positive route and take the time to get my body right and come back."

In Watt's absence, the Steelers have failed to get consistent pressure on the quarterback and have only five sacks in six games without him.