Star defensive lineman Cameron Heyward knows the Steelers defense will have to do things differently sans Watt, but the entire operation isn't going up in smoke.
"Obviously, you don't want to play without a guy like that, but guys gotta step up," Heyward said of Watt, via Brooke Pryor of ESPN. "We're not reinventing the wheel. We're not going out there saying that we have to change up our entire scheme and stuff, but we just gotta make sure we do our jobs."
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin noted that, without Watt, the defense would have to adjust to not having a player who can win one-on-ones off the snap and disrupt the backfield.
"It's gonna change because he's not there," Austin said. "Obviously, everybody knows what he does really well, which is a lot of things, but I think structurally we're gonna remain the same.
"We're gonna do the things that we think are good, that are sound fundamentally. ... We know we may not get the type of production T.J. had, but if we get good, solid varsity players, we're gonna be fine."
Alex Highsmith, who generated three sacks and nine tackles in Pittsburgh's Week 1 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, is the lead linebacker sans Watt; Malik Reed, acquired in a trade with Denver ahead of the season, will likely see an expanded role in the coming month; and Jamir Jones could play a rotational role.
We'll get our first chance to see how the Steelers defense plans to attack without Watt on Sunday against the New England Patriots.