Linebacker T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers publicly addressed his Week 14 head injury and stint in the NFL concussion protocol for the first time on December 14. Through the media, he appeared to send a message intended for fans and media members who argued Watt shouldn’t have returned to play against the New England Patriots on December 7.
“We can break down every little thing that I do,” Watt said about his use of a tinted visor and smelling salts after his head injury. “I think it’s funny how things get caught on camera when you could do some things other times that aren’t on camera.
“So, I’m not going to get in all the specifics and into a debate about it.”
A day prior to Watt speaking out on his concussion, he cleared the NFL’s concussion protocol.
ESPN’s Brooke Pryor reported on December 14 that fellow Steelers edge rusher Alex Highsmith cleared the league’s concussion protocol as well.
Both Watt and Highsmith entered the protocol in the days following the team’s loss to the Patriots in Week 14. But each edge rusher will come into the Week 15 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts without injury designations.
The Steelers-Colts showdown will kick off at 4:30 pm ET on December 16.
T.J. Watt Addresses Week 14 Head Injury
Watt’s usage of smelling salts and switch to a tinted visor during the Patriots matchup became a discussion point on social media. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio addressed the tinted visor on December 10, which could have been installed on Watt’s helmet during the game because of sudden light sensitivity.
Light sensitivity is a concussion symptom.
As one could expect, those two discussion points were at the crux of the questions Watt received on December 14.
The linebacker brushed aside his usage of the tinted visor against the Patriots as something that he’s worn previously. He declined to answer why he made the switch in the middle of the game.
“I’m not really going to get into specifics,” Watt told the media. “I’ve worn a visor pregame. I’ve worn a visor in practice. It’s not something that’s new for me, so I’ll leave it at that.”
While Watt didn’t provide specifics about the tinted visor and smelling salts, he did make it clear that the NFL checked him for a concussion in the blue medical tent along the sidelines. Watt said the evaluation cleared him to return to the game.
The outside linebacker underwent evaluation in the medical tent after he sustained a hit to the helmet. The contact came from the knee of Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott on the first play from scrimmage.
Watt said that he entered the concussion protocol on December 9 after not feeling well.
Highsmith left with an injury during the first half as well against the Patriots. The Amazon Prime stream initially reported Highsmith was dealing a neck injury.
The following day, though, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Highsmith had entered the concussion protocol.
Watt, Alex Highsmith Ready to Play Against Indianapolis Colts
With Watt and Highsmith both clearing the concussion protocol, the edge rushers fully participated in practice on December 14. The expectation is both will play in Week 15.
That’s obviously great news for the Steelers. Although Pittsburgh sits in a playoff spot in sixth place of the AFC, the Steelers are unlikely to retain that seed with a third consecutive loss.
Like the Steelers, the Colts are also 7-6 entering Week 15. Six AFC teams are 7-6 as of December 14. The Steelers could potentially fall five places in the standings with a defeat to the Colts.
With such a pivotal matchup on the docket, the Steelers could ill afford to not have Watt, let alone both of the team’s top edge rushers.
Watt has posted 14 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 27 quarterback hits and an interception this season. Highsmith has 6 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 16 quarterback hits and an interception, which he returned for a touchdown.