Around the AFC North: T.J. Watt Injured in Steelers Defeat

092021-AFCN
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) pressures Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) during the first half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021.

Pittsburgh Steelers: T.J. Watt Suffers Groin Injury; Tyson Alualu Reportedly Out For Season

Two top Steelers defensive players were injured during Sunday's 26-17 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

All-Pro outside linebacker T.J. Watt did not return after suffering a first-quarter groin injury. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that it's not a major injury.

Watt was the AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2020, a dominant player who signed a contract extension last week that made him the NFL's highest-paid defensive player. Losing Watt had an immediate impact on Pittsburgh's defense both schematically and psychologically, a void that will remain until he returns.

The Steelers host the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, and all four teams in the AFC North enter Week 3 with a 1-1 record.

Watt's injury wasn't the only huge blow to Pittsburgh's defense. Starting nose tackle Tyson Alualu will have surgery on a fractured ankle and will miss the rest of the season, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Head Coach Mike Tomlin said Alaula would be out for an "extended" time during his post-game press conference. The Steelers are already thin on the defensive line without Stephon Tuitt (knee), who is on injured reserve and not eligible to return until at least Week 4.

"T.J. was raring to begin the game and had a lot of havoc early," defensive tackle Cam Heyward said via Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com. "Losing Ty [Alualu] was definitely something we had to adjust to. It took me awhile just to settle down. It's not one man to be Superman, but the group has to pick up the slack."

Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield Toughs Out Shoulder Injury; Jarvis Landry to Have MRI

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield didn't let a left shoulder injury keep him sidelined during Sunday's 31-21 victory over the Houston Texans. Mayfield came to the sideline wincing in pain during the second quarter and went to the locker room, but came sprinting back to the sideline within minutes and returned for the next series.

"It kind of popped in and out, but I'll be good," Mayfield said via Mary Cay Cabot of cleveland.com. "Nothing too serious."

Mayfield had one of his most accurate throwing days despite the injury (19 for 21, 213 yards, one touchdown, one interception), and he did it without wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who left with a knee injury early in the game. Landry was scheduled for an MRI on Monday according to Head Coach Kevin Stefanski, and ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the Browns believe Landry has a sprained MCL.

Landry may not be available when the Browns host the Chicago Bears in Week 3, but Mayfield plans to be in the lineup as usual and Stefanski appreciates the toughness of his quarterback.

"He's sore, but he gutted it out," Stefanski said. "He's a very, very competitive young man. He wants to be out there with his teammates. It doesn't matter if he's sore, he's going to fight with his teammates."

Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow Wants More Deep Passes to Keep Defenses Honest

Joe Burrow had one of the worst stretches of his young career during Sunday's 20-17 loss to the Bears, throwing interceptions on three straight attempts during the fourth quarter. One of those interceptions became a pick-six by Bears linebacker Roquan Smith, who barreled through Burrow on his way to the end zone.

The game ended Burrow's streak of 199 consecutive passes without throwing an interception, and the pick-six gave Chicago a 20-3 lead from which Cincinnati did not recover.

Pass protection continues to be an issue for the Bengals. Burrow has already been sacked nine times in two games, and only Zack Wilson of the New York Jets (10 times) has been dumped more.

The Bengals want Burrow to get rid of the ball quickly, but the Bears anticipated Cincinnati's short passing game and jumped Cincinnati's pass routes frequently. Moving forward, Burrow wants the Bengals to take more shots downfield to keep opposing defensive backs honest.

"They just started sitting on all the routes," Burrow said during his postgame press conference. "You've got to throw the ball over their head, at least make them feel like you're going to be able to do that. We just turned the ball over too many times."

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