Pittsburgh Steelers fans held their breath Sunday afternoon against the Detroit Lions when All-Pro OLB T.J. Watt went down with a knee injury. Watt was quickly ruled out for the rest of the game, but HC Mike Tomlin mentioned in the post-game press conference that Watt and WR Diontae Johnson who also suffered an injury could have returned if it was a regular season game.
Watt injured his knee when he was taken out by a cut block by TE T.J. Hockenson on a run by Jermar Jefferson on the first play of Detroit’s fourth drive of the game. Hockenson went low into Watt’s legs, rolling up into Watt’s left knee.
Watt spoke on the play Wednesday to the media in the locker room, stating that Hockenson was in his full right to make the play he did on Watt by cutting him down.
“I mean, it’s one of those plays where it’s, it’s a completely legal play,” Watt said to the media Wednesday on video from Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Brian Batko. “I obviously don’t have much to say about it. There’s a few words exchanged. It was just like, ‘Sorry I had to do that’, something like that. And I was just, I didn’t really have any words to say back to him. More frustration than anything, but those blocks are always tough to deal with. Like I said, it is a legal block, so I can’t be too upset. But it’s also one of those things where I honestly don’t know what I can do differently in that situation.”
The cut block is a nasty play for defenders coming full speed off the edge in pursuit of the football as blockers will go low to take out motors and stop defenders in their tracks. It’s an effective move for offensive linemen, tight ends, and running backs alike, but it can be dangerous to defenders involved. Often times, knee injuries are associated with cut blocks as the blocker with go head or shoulder first into the defender’s knee joint, potentially causing damage. I can speak from experience having been cut blocked in high school by an OL, fracturing my left patella on the play which took nine months to heal.
Thankfully, Watt appeared to leave the game unharmed and mentioned as much to the media when asked if he could re-enter the game if it were a regular season contest.
“Yeah,” Watt said regarding if he could have came back into the game. “I think it was just one of those things where my knee just got a little uncomfortable afterwards and didn’t feel truly a hundred percent. So, I didn’t want to chance anything.”
A wise move by Watt who likely doesn’t need much run in preseason play to feel ready to go for regular season action which kicks off against the Cincinnati Bengals come Week 1. It’s refreshing to hear that Watt feels fine after putting all of Steelers Nation in panic for a brief moment after he limped off the field.
Thankfully, no damage was done to the knee itself, but it’s easy to see where Watt’s frustration is coming from as there isn’t much a defender can do in that situation to avoid getting cut down. Hopefully after Watt’s scare and the play that happened to Giants OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux, the NFL will look at potentially amending their current stance on the cut block in the future.