T.J. Watt expects to return vs. Saints after 7-game absence

PITTSBURGH -- For the first time this season, Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt will take the field at Acrisure Stadium in a regular-season game.

Watt said Friday that he expects to play against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, meaning he'll be activated off injured reserve before Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.

"I am very excited," Watt said. "It's just been a long time coming. Just feel very, very good about the week that I had and excited to play."

Watt hasn't played since the Week 1 win against the Cincinnati Bengals after tearing a pectoral muscle in the final minutes of regulation. He also had arthroscopic surgery on a preseason knee injury during his IR stint.

But despite his extended absence, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year says he doesn't anticipate being limited in his first game action.

"No pitch count," he said. "I mean, I don't want to put any limitations on myself. I never play a hundred percent of snaps anyway."

Without Watt, the Steelers have struggled to get a consistent pass rush and have only eight sacks over his seven-game absence. Watt, though, says he hopes he can spark a second-half-of-the-season turnaround.

"It's huge," Watt said of his return. "To finally have a helmet back on and be out there in the field and just to feel the emotions and feel alive again in the stadium.

"It's huge to be able to tap a guy in the head after he makes a good play, get guys celebrating, bring some juice, bring some spark, some energy, is all that I can ask for when it's time to play football, and I'm excited about it."