Steelers T.J. Watt wins Defensive Player of the Year by a landslide
By Tommy Jaggi
T.J. Watt was dominant in 2021 despite injuries. Here’s why the Associated Press voters had the Steelers star winning Defensive Player of the Year by a landslide.
On February 10th, the NFL Honors 2022 ceremony was held. As they do each year, members of the Associated Press voted on some of the league’s most impressive players from the season, and several were handed some of the highest individual honors in football.
Many of these awards were easy to predict this time around. Dallas Cowboys linebacker, Micah Parsons won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award unanimously, while Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver, Ja’Marr Chase, ran away with Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The battle for the AP Defensive Player of the Year was projected to be a bit tighter, but ever since T.J. Watt tied the NFL’s single-season sack record held by Michael Strahan, Watt became the clear and obvious frontrunner.
On Thursday night, Watt officially received the Defensive Player of the Year award for his efforts during the 2021 season. In 15 games, he led the NFL with 22.5 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss while also earning 39 quarterback hits and 5 forced fumbles, according to Pro Football Reference.
Here’s a list of all the award winners from the NFL Honors 2022 ceremony:
NFL Honors 2022 award winners:
- AP Most Valuable Player: Aaron Rodgers (Packers)
- AP Coach of the Year: Mike Vrabel (Titans)
- AP Offensive Player of the Year: Cooper Kupp (Rams)
- AP Defensive Player of the Year: T.J. Watt (Steelers)
- AP Comeback Player of the Year: Joe Burrow (Bengals)
- AP Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ja’Marr Chase (Bengals)
- AP Defensive Rookie of the Year: Michah Parsons (Cowboys)
- AP Assistant Coach of the year: Dan Quinn (Cowboys)
- Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year: Andrew Whitworth (Rams)
- Hall of Fame class: LeRoy Butler, Bryant Young, Sam Mills, Cliff Branch, Richard Seymour, Art McNally, Tony Boselli, and Dick Vermeil.
- FedEx Air Player of the Year: Tom Brady (Buccaneers)
- FedEx Ground Player of the Year: Jonathan Taylor (Colts)
- Bridgestone Performance Play of the Year: Justin Tucker (66-yard field goal)
Despite dominant 2021 seasons from players like Aaron Donald and Micah Parsons, Watt raked in the DPOY award by a landslide. He earned 42 total votes compared to just 5 for Parsons and 3 for Donald.
When Watt was healthy, his impact on the defensive side of the ball was unmatched, and he’s a big reason the Steelers were able to sneak into the playoffs this past season despite lackluster performances from most positions across their roster. He now joins some pretty elite company on a history full of defensive stars.
T.J. Watt joins elite Steelers company
After earning the NFL’s highest individual honor for a defensive player, T.J. Watt inserts his name alongside some of the best to ever play for the black and gold. With 8 DPOY awards in their storied history of remarkable defenses, Watt joins Joe Greene (1972,1974), Mel Blount (1975), Jack Lambert (1976), Rod Woodson (1993), James Harrison (2008), and Troy Polamalu as the only Steelers DPOY recipients.
This is Hall of Fame company across the board. With the trajectory that Watt’s career is on, it certainly appears that he will be headed to Canton someday as well.
At 27 years old, T.J. Watt still has a long career ahead of him, and the sky is the limit if he can stay healthy. When it’s all said and done, I have a feeling we are not only going to be referring to him as one of the greatest Steelers of all time, but simply one of the greatest defenders in NFL history.