Steelers have a long history of winning defensive player of the year awards

T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /
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T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) /

T.J.Watt, Edge

Only into his fifth season in 2021, he had a huge season for the Steelers. Part of the reason for winning the award is not only that he finished second and third in the voting in 2020 and 2019 but that he tied the single-season NFL sack record with 22.5 sacks. In addition, he had seven passes defended, caused five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, 64 combined tackles, 48 solo tackles, 16 assists; he led the league in tackles for a loss for a second straight season with 21 and had 39 quarterback hits.

T.J. is undoubtedly the best pass rusher in the NFL, and there are very few offensive linemen that can contain him without committing a holding penalty. Right now, at the top of his game, it’s still possible he could win the award again before the end of his career. Knowing the rivalry with his brothers J.J. Watt and Derek Watt, T.J. may just certainly strive to win the award again as the only player who has won it three times is his Brother J.J. Watt.

Unlike all of the other players on this list, T.J. still has many seasons left to play and will be in Pittsburgh through 2025. So much of his career has yet to happen. We could see T.J. at the podium receiving this award again, and it wouldn’t be surprising.

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If not, another Steelers defensive player can leave his impact on the NFL and win the award. Someone like Cam Heyward, a free agent they sign, or someone as of yet undrafted. One thing the Steelers have done well over the years, if anything, is finding defensive players that fit the mold of playing smash-mouth football while laying waste to everything in front of them, kind of like they did in the 70s.