Steelers EDGE T.J. Watt snubbed from Pro Football Focus All-Pro Team
By Tommy Jaggi
T.J. Watt recently tied the all-time single-season sack record, but here’s why the Pittsburgh Steelers star was snubbed on PFF’s All-Pro Team.
There comes a point where even the wisest of NFL experts can ‘overanalyze.’ While I always take Pro Football Focus with a grain of salt anyway, I had to disregard their most recent article almost entirely.
Recently, PFF’s Sam Monson came up with his 2021 All-Pro Team based on performances and grades this past season. The Steelers had one player make first-team All-Pro… and it wasn’t T.J. Watt.
Though Cameron Heyward was his usual dominant self this year, it’s easy to watch any given Steelers game and see that Watt is not only the best player on the team, but he also offers a bigger impact than anyone outside of Ben Roethlisberger. Despite missing two games with injuries and being forced to leave the contest early on four separate occasions this year, Watt still managed to lead the NFL in both sacks and tackles for a loss for the second straight season, according to Pro Football Reference.
Admittedly, there’s much more that goes into playing the edge defender position than this, but you could make the case that no non-quarterback player was more important to their team’s success in 2021 than T.J. Watt. This is exactly why I say that you can be overly analytical to a fault.
Despite all of T.J. Watt’s personal accomplishments this season and the fact that the Steelers were 9-2 when he played at least 40 snaps this season, Monson didn’t see it fitting to dub Watt as a first-team All-Pro on PFF’s list. In his stead, Myles Garrett and Maxx Crosby were named as the two first-team All-Pro edge defenders this year. Watt and Nick Bosa were labeled as second-team All-Pros by PFF.
Steelers Watt should be All-Pro on every list
Regardless of how deep you delve into analytics and factor in things like pass-rush productivity, win-rate, double-team rate, etc., you can still notice the dominance that was T.J. Watt in 2021. When healthy, Watt was as good as any defensive player in the league and deserves to be treated as such.
Though many didn’t give him a chance to break the sack record due to minor groin, hip, and knee injuries this year, Watt actually broke Michael Strahan’s record in one fewer game played this year (15).
While earning 22.5 sacks alone isn’t a reason to dub someone as the best defensive player in football, it’s a compilation of all the other things he does so well that makes T.J. Watt so great. Whether that’s batting the ball down, forcing fumbles, taking down the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage, or getting the quarterback rattled by delivering a hit as he gets rid of the ball, Watt is clearly one of the most disruptive forces in this league.
Most NFL players would love to even have their name mentioned in the All-Pro discussion. But for a player who is almost certainly going to be named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year for his remarkable 2021 season, it’s absurd that there are analysts out there who only view him as a second-team All-Pro player.