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After Further Review: Watt a return

After further review …

The run defense was so well executed Cam Heyward was even impressed by a 14-yard gain surrendered during Steelers 20, Saints 10.

"I thought the run defense was really good, just everybody playing assignment football," Heyward emphasized late Sunday afternoon. "There was one play, T.J. (Watt) took the assignment of taking Taysom Hill out of the play. I think we gave up a 10-yard run but you could see the execution there."

The play Heyward was referencing occurred on first-and-10 from the New Orleans 34-yard line with 10:44 left in the second quarter.

Watt crashed in unblocked from the left side of the defensive formation, ran past running back Alvin Kamara and splattered Hill, who had lined up at quarterback.

Kamara was the one with the ball in his hands, but Watt either didn't know that at the time or didn't care.

His job in that particular instance was to prevent Hill from springing one of his trademark gadget plays on the Steelers' defense.

It resulted in a 14-yard gain, but that type of attention to detail also led to the Steelers playing the type of defense they endeavor to play throughout what became a dominating performance against the Saints.

"The execution, I just thought, picked up in the run defense," Heyward continued. "And then that led to the sacks, a couple sacks, and turnovers, as well."

Kamara wound up with 26 yards rushing on eight attempts and the Saints 29 on 15 carries.

Watt was more of a presence than he was a game-wrecker in his first appearance since the regular-season opener, but he was content to be that, more than content to merely be a part of a winning effort again.

"I had a lot of fun today," he acknowledged.

His stat line of two tackles, two assists and one quarterback hit were pedestrian, particularly by Watt's reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year-standard.

But the attention to deal he committed to throughout, on the Kamara play and while resisting the urge to attempt to do too much while trying to navigate a consistent array of chips and double-teams no doubt resonated with more of his defensive teammates than just Heyward.

As did Watt's mere presence.

"You see that crowd when he came out?" safety Damontae Kazee wondered aloud. "It was beautiful, man."

The ovation for Watt as the defensive starters were being announced at Acrisure Stadium was thunderous.

If you didn't know any better, you might have thought Ben Roethlisberger had just run out of the tunnel.

"Those moments, it's hard when you're in the actual moment to feel," Watt observed. "I mean, it's just full body chills, and it's like you wish you could freeze time for just one second while you're looking around and people are going crazy."

Watt further stoked an already emotional crowd by gesturing for noise before the Saints' first offensive snap, which wound up being delayed by a false start penalty.

Watt then registered assisted tackles on consecutive runs by Kamara and Hill that gained a combined 1 yard.

On the second of those Watt viciously hammered away at the ball, as is his habit.

Welcome back.

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