The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.
How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph, and now Devlin Hodges? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: What does T.J. Watt have to do over the course of the final two games to secure the Defensive Player of the Year Award for himself?
With 13 sacks and six forced fumbles, T.J. Watt has already duplicated his production from last season that made him a Pro Bowler, but also added two interceptions and a few fumble recoveries, plus seven passes defensed and 31 quarterback hits.
While he’s in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year, by no means does he have it locked up. Some would argue that his own teammate, Minkah Fitzpatrick, is among the other primary candidates, but among defensive backs, Stephon Gilmore has probably thrust himself in the front of the pack, now with a league-leading six interceptions, plus two touchdowns, and he’s been the closest thing to a vintage shutdown corner in the NFL this year.
Shaquil Barrett and Chandler Jones both have more sacks than does Watt, but also has the same number of forced fumbles. Barrett, with 16.5 sacks, also has an interception. So it would be hard not to have him in the conversation, at least when purely looking at numbers. There are other candidates as well, of course.
So what does Watt have to do to separate himself? Another three or four sacks would really help a lot, and a defensive touchdown certainly wouldn’t hurt. A signature game-clinching play is always big for the resume in this sort of thing as well.