Just days ahead of the AFC and NFC Championship games, the NFL rolled out their finalists for the Associated Press annual rewards. These end-of-the-year honors include awards like Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and MVP. The Pittsburgh Steelers had two representatives who made the final cut.
The AP votes have been tallied for these awards, but we won't know the winner until the NFL Honors ceremony on Thursday, February 8th. What we do officially know now is the five finalists for each award.
As you probably figured out, the Steelers don't have a finalist for an offensive award this year. However, they do have a pair of representatives on the defensive side of the football: T.J. Watt and Joey Porter Jr.
T.J. Watt is a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year
After becoming the first player in NFL history to lead the league in sacks in three separate seasons, nobody should be surprised to see that star edge defender T.J. Watt has been listed as a top-5 finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year award. Watt is already a former DPOY recipient following a 22.5-sack season in 2021 (which tied Michael Strahan for the single-season record).
In 2023, Watt finished the season with 19.0 sacks to go with 19 tackles for a loss, 36 QB hits, 4 forced fumbles, an interception, and a defensive touchdown. Watt's biggest competition for the award could be former 2019 draft classmate Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns. Cowboys pass rusher Micah Parsons is also firmly in the running.
Joey Porter Jr. is a finalist for Defensive Rookie of the Year
We can't argue that Joey Porter Jr. was always the most consistent player over the course of his rookie seasons, but penalties often took the attention away from how well he played in his first NFL action in 2023. Porter proved to be a rock-solid cornerback in coverage for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he was entrusted to follow the opposing team's best receiver around the field.
Porter has a massive uphill battle to earn the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, as he didn't start a full season. The rookie CB didn't see significant action until Week 7 following Pittsburgh's bye. According to Pro Football Reference, Porter was credited for allowing just 30 of 63 passes to be completed in his coverage for 449 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. This equated to a passer rating of just 70.1 when thrown in 2023.
Other finalists for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award include EDGE Will Anderson Jr., DT Jalen Carter, DT Kobie Turner, and CB Devon Witherspoon.
Of the two Pittsburgh Steelers representatives for AP honors this year, T.J. Watt is more likely to hoist a trophy than Joey Porter Jr. Still, it takes a lot for a player to reach this point. Tune into CBS, NFL Network, or NF+ on Thursday, February 8th to watch the NFL Honors ceremony.