Is Steelers EDGE T.J. Watt already a future first-ballot Hall of Famer?

T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

T.J. Watt recently won the Defensive Player of the Year award, but will the Steelers star be a lock to get into the Hall of Fame on his first attempt?

If you would ask T.J. Watt, I’m certain that he would say he’s not worried about chasing individual goals for the future; rather, he’s focused on winning football games in the present. Regardless, this is still a topic I find quite interesting.

During the NFL Honors 2022 ceremony, the Pittsburgh Steelers star defender was officially dubbed AP Defensive Player of the Year. Over the past four seasons, there hasn’t been a player on his side of the ball who has been as productive, and his name has been near the top of the DPOY discussion for three straight seasons.

Despite his run of dominance and his fantastic career trajectory, I can’t quite say with confidence yet that T.J. Watt will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Why? Because the Associated Press voters don’t always get it right.

DeMarcus Ware snubbed from HoF

I watched a ton of DeMarcus Ware growing up. Whenever the Dallas Cowboys were on defense, my eyes were fixated on Ware because of his fantastic get-off and his ability to routinely hit the quarterback.

Early in his career, Ware was on a remarkable pace. Ware earned a 20.0-sack season by year four and had 7 straight seasons between 11-20 sacks. He did this while throwing his name in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, 2010, and 2011 — leading the NFL in tackles for a loss in each of these seasons.

Ware also earned a Super Bowl ring later in his career as a member of the Denver Broncos. But despite his four-time First-Team All-Pro status and 9 Pro Bowl appearances in an impressive career that included 138.5 sacks and 171 tackles for a loss, Ware was denied entry into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2022.

Will Steelers T.J. Watt get in HoF on his first attempt?

This makes me a bit concerned for T.J. Watt. Ware had a remarkable Hall of Fame resume that included a Super Bowl victory under his belt, yet Associated Press voters apparently didn’t believe he was deserving of entering the Hall of Fame on his first try.

Watt does have a leg up on Ware in that he now has a Defensive Player of the Year award under his belt (and it may not be the last one he earns either). However, earning a Super Bowl ring at some point in the latter half of his career is going to be remarkably difficult.

If this is something that doesn’t happen, will the AP voters ding him for this? Will his elite production be enough for them to look past this and allow him entry into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot?

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This really is something we will just have to wait and see how it unfolds. T.J. Watt is on an outstanding pace for the Steelers and he certainly doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Though deserving players like DeMarcus Ware have been denied, I would venture a guess that Watt makes it in on the first try — assuming he can stay mostly healthy over the next 4-6 years.