Steelers Lose Key Special Teamer to Injury

Derek-Watt-Steelers

Joe Sargent/Getty Images T.J. Watt #90, Derek Watt #44 of the Pittsburgh Steelers and J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans talk after Pittsburgh's 28-21 win at Heinz Field on September 27, 2020.

For Pittsburgh Steelers fullback Derek Watt, playing in a game with his brothers was a “dream come true.”

But the game didn’t unfold exactly as he would have liked, as he was out of the contest before halftime with a hamstring injury.

According to Ian Rapoport, National Insider for NFL Network and NFL.com, that injury is a “Grade 2 hamstring pull,” which means that he is expected to miss a “couple games.”

That’s a blow to the Steelers’ special teams units, primarily. In three games, Watt has played a total of 21 snaps on offense, including seven during the first half against the Texans. He played nine snaps on special teams before exiting the game early.


Roosevelt Nix is a Free Agent

It’s not yet clear if the Steelers plan to put Derek Watt on injured reserve, or if they plan to sign a fullback to replace him on the roster.

One potential candidate is former Steelers fullback Roosevelt Nix. The Steelers cut Nix on March 18 after they signed Watt to a three-year contract in free agency. Less than a month later the Indianapolis Colts signed Nix to a one-year contract, but the Colts went on to release him on August 31.

Like Watt, Nix primarily served the Steelers on special teams. However, his best days appear to be behind him. His best year in Pittsburgh came in 2017 when he made the Pro Bowl; that year he was in on 16 percent of the team’s snaps on offense and 69 percent of its special teams snaps.

Notably, Nix still counts for $875,000 in dead money on Pittsburgh’s 2020 salary cap, one of eight former players who count against this year’s cap.


Rookie RB Anthony McFarland Makes His Steelers Debut

Meanwhile, in another notable development on Sunday, Steelers rookie running back Anthony McFarland saw his first game action of the season, something of a surprise insofar as the Steelers have two healthy, established backs ahead of him. All in all it was a successful debut, as McFarland carried the ball six times for 42 yards with a long gain of 20 yards. He also caught one pass for seven yards and dropped another.

McFarland, a fourth-round pick out of the University of Maryland, is the fourth member of this year’s draft class to play this season, with the team already getting significant contributions from second-round pick Chase Claypool (WR), third-rounder Alex Highsmith (OLB) and fellow fourth-rounder Kevin Dotson (OG). Claypool has been most impactful to date, with six catches for 151 yards and an 84-yard touchdown reception. He has also carried the ball once for eight yards and has four special teams tackles (one solo).

Meanwhile, sixth-round pick Antoine Brooks Jr. (safety) remains a member of Pittsburgh’s practice squad, while seventh-round pick Carlos Davis (nose tackle) is on the active roster but has been inactive for all three games.

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