Donny Football Hot Takes: #4 – TJ Watt Finally Claims Defensive Player of the Year
By Donny Chedrick
In 2021, Steelers linebacker TJ Watt will finally grasp the accolade that has been just beyond his fingertips for the last two seasons. TJ Watt will be the 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
I could show the side-by-side stats between Watt and three-time winner, Aaron Donald, who was the victor over Watt last season. But that has been overdone and beaten into the ground. Yes, Watt had the better numbers. The younger brother of JJ, who has three of the awards to his own name over the course of his Hall of Fame career, has been a game-changing player since entering in 2017. When the Steelers picked him at 30th overall in the draft that year, I had two thoughts: “How did he fall that far? And if he’s even 75% of JJ, the Steelers got a good one.” They got lucky and he is at least 75% of JJ.
TJ has led the league in a handful of defensive categories in his young career. In 2019, he was one of the sole reasons the Steelers even had a shot at a postseason appearance. 15 sacks to lead the league last year, 23 tackles for loss to lead the league last year, eight forced fumbles in 2019 to go along with his 14.5 sacks — an absolute animal off the edge.
The third time is the charm for TJ Watt. After narrowly losing out to Stephon Gilmore in 2019 and Aaron Donald in 2020, this year will be the one where he sits atop the throne of best defensive players in the National Football League. The accomplishment would put him in esteemed Steelers’ company with Joe Greene (1972, 1974), Mel Blount (1975), Jack Lambert (1976), Rod Woodson (1993), James Harrison (2008) and Troy Polamalu (2010).
It’s also just crazy to look at that. The Steelers really had the NFL Defensive Player of the Year four out of five years from 1972-1976. Unbelievable.
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