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Help is on the way

The arrow has been pointing toward defensive reinforcements being available on Sunday against New Orleans, and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is ready to accept all the help he can get.

The headliner of the anticipated defensive calvary charge is outside linebacker T.J. Watt, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the year.

But Watt might play more of a supporting role if he returns to the lineup for the first time since suffering a pectoral injury in the latter stages of regulation of the Steelers' season-opening overtime win on Sept. 11 at Cincinnati.

"I don't think it'll be a full, 60-play game for him," Austin said. "I don't think that's realistic to think with a guy coming back after seven weeks, eight weeks but we'll get what we can out of him.

"We'll make sure we use him properly and hope he can impact the game if we have him available."

Another player head coach Mike Tomlin was "optimistic" about on Tuesday regarding potential availability against the Saints is safety Damontae Kazee, and for good reason. Kazee was activated to the 53-man roster on Thursday.

A veteran of 69 NFL games and 49 NFL starts over the past five seasons with Atlanta and Dallas, Kazee had his season temporarily derailed when he suffered an arm injury in the preseason.

Prior to that he had appeared well on the way to carving out a role for himself in a three-safeties sub-package.

"I'm glad to have him back at practice," Austin said. "We'll see how he comes out of this week and how much we'll be able to use him. If we're able to use him I'll try to find some places to get him in the game. It may just be in regular defense. It may not just be three-safeties (looks). We may get him regular defense, three-safety defense, whatever it might be because I think he's a good football player.

"We'll work through that at the end of the week. As we get closer we'll kind of narrow those things down."

Cornerback William Jackson III is potentially in line to make his Steelers debut, but no certainty because of a back injury. Jackson, a former first-round pick by Cincinnati out of Houston in 2016, was acquired in a bye-week trade with Washington but didn't practice Wednesday and Thursday due to a back injury.

He had missed the last three games the Commanders had played at the time of his trade to the Steelers after hurting his back on Oct. 9 against the Titans.

"You'd want him to get out there by Friday so he can have some physical reps at it," Austin said prior to practice today. "But he's a veteran, he's been in the league long enough. He understands man coverage. He understands zone coverage. There might be some little twists and turns that we may do but I'm sure we could keep him out of those situations if possible.

"If we have the opportunity to have him and he can be out there to help us, then we'll use him."