Live Updates: The N.F.L. Is Back, With a Lot to Prove

Credit…Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, via Associated Press

T.J. Watt might have grown up in Wisconsin, and he might play for the Steelers, but according to Coach Mike Tomlin, he is just “visiting from another planet.” Tomlin said this toward the end of last season, which Watt finished with a league-leading 15 sacks.

The team’s front office acknowledged Watt’s otherworldly talent with a four-year extension worth $80 million guaranteed, according to multiple reports. Fresh off that signing, Watt beams into Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., on Sunday to lead a Steelers defense that represents an immediate, and stern, test for the Buffalo Bills and their superlative quarterback, Josh Allen.

Last season, Pittsburgh allowed the third-fewest points in the league and they are again stacked at every level, from secondary (Minkah Fitzpatrick) to linebacker (Devin Bush) to defensive line (Cam Heyward). Watt, though, is the best of them all, a supreme edge rusher who bypasses double-teams to torment quarterbacks, usually from the left side. Only Shaquil Barrett of Tampa Bay (76) recorded more pressures than Watt (73) during the 2020 season, according to Pro Football Focus.

As he waited for his contract negotiation to get resolved, Watt abstained from practicing with his teammates during most of training camp. He finally joined them on Wednesday, and no doubt he figures to be ready to play. The Bills better be, too.

Credit…Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

In the span of just 12 days, the Baltimore Ravens lost their top three rushers on the depth chart to season-ending injuries.

Gus Edwards tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during practice this week, the second such injury for a Ravens running back after starter J.K. Dobbins did so in the Aug. 28 preseason finale against Washington. They joined Justice Hill, who tore his Achilles’ tendon in practice, on injury reserve. Cornerback Marcus Peters also tore his A.C.L. at the same practice as Edwards.

“I think you mourn for a day, and we fight today,” Coach John Harbaugh told reporters Friday. “We can move forward.” He said he did not think the playing surface contributed to the rash of non-contact injuries.

To respond to the carnage, the Ravens signed Latavius Murray, the former New Orleans Saints backup, after he was released for declining to take a pay cut. Baltimore also added two players who previously had 1,000-yard rushing seasons, Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman, to the practice squad with the intention of elevating them to the active roster.

Bell, a three-time Pro Bowl selection during his five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was released by the Jets midway through last season for his lack of production. He briefly signed with Kansas City, splitting carries in a reserve role, and later criticized Coach Andy Reid on social media this off-season.

Freeman, an elusive runner and pass catcher, rushed for 1,000 yards twice early in his six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, but his production slipped after his groin injury in 2018, which kept him out of all but two games. He signed a one-year deal with the Giants last season, appearing in only five games and rushing for 172 yards. The Saints released him during training camp after he signed a one-year contract this off-season.

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