In a reminder that every NFL team faces significant injuries, the Pittsburgh Steelers will enter Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears without starters on each side of the ball:
Linebacker T.J. Watt and right tackle Marcus Gilbert were ruled out for Sunday’s game.
These are two pretty significant injuries for the 2-0 Steelers, who will look to keep John Fox winless in September since joining the Bears as head coach in 2015.
Gilbert missed practice this week while dealing with an illness and a hamstring injury. He has missed just seven games over the last four years and has graded out as one of the league’s better tackles by Pro Football Focus’ standards. The 2016 season was one in which PFF handed Gilbert an 86.5 grade, which puts him in the site’s “high quality” category. Gilbert earned average or above average grades from PFF in his first five years.
It appears as though Chris Hubbard – who’s started games at tackle and center for the Steelers in the last two seasons – will slide into the right tackle spot to replace Gilbert.
Watt left Pittsburgh’s Week 2 win against the Vikings with a groin injury and was considered to be day-to-day before being ruled out. The rookie from Wisconsin has played 82 snaps and earned an 80.6 grade from PFF in his first two games with the Steelers. Pittsburgh plucked Watt with the 30th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and he has paid immediate dividends with two sacks and an interception.
The injury to Watt could open up some playing time for veteran linebacker James Harrison, who has played a grand total of four defensive snaps in two games. Harrison is a five-time Pro Bowler who picked up five sacks in 15 games in his age 38 season in 2016. Hopefully, the Bears don’t take his presence lightly if he gets into the game.