It’s pretty hard to win the Defensive Player of the Year Award if you don’t also manage to make the first team on the All-Pro List. Generally, one would think that the best defensive player in the league would also be one of the best players at his position…generally.
I’m not sure quite frankly if it’s ever happened before that the Defensive Player of the Year was not a first-team All-Pro. I don’t think it’s necessary to do the research to make a rather insignificant point. But I’m willing to bet damn near all have done so. And in that regard, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt took a big step toward that goal yesterday when he was, in fact, named to the first-team All-Pro List.
The third-year pro recorded 14.5 sacks during the past season, the most by a Steeler since 2008, in addition to creating eight forced fumbles. He intercepted two passes, including one in the end zone, and also recovered four forced fumbles. He had eight passes defenses among numerous other impressive statistical feats.
And amidst his own very fine season, teammate Bud Dupree watched his partner in awe during 2019. “He had an amazing season. A defensive player of the year season”, he told the Steelers’ website after the All-Pro team was announced. “Hopefully he gets that award at the end of the year. It would be great for him and the whole unit”.
Dupree, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March, added 11.5 sacks this season with four forced fumbles and two recovered. It was the best season of his career by a good margin, and no doubt they have fueled each other to be better players.
“He works hard every day, makes corrections, studies, he is an all-around player. He is about football all day. That is all he talks about, football and competitive stuff”, he said in describing Watt. “He goes about his business and makes sure he is getting better each time he is out there. He never wants to make mistakes, never wants to not play well, and wants to play at an elite level and shows up all of the time”.
Through his first three seasons, Watt has registered 177 career tackles with 34.5 sacks, 15 forced fumbles, four recoveries, three interceptions, and 18 passes defensed. He also has 70 quarterback hits, and 36 tackles for loss. He registered career-highs in every single category short of tackles and interception return yards.
Will he be rewarded with the next step, the highest honor a defensive player could receive in a single season—short of the outright MVP Award? We won’t know until the day before the Super Bowl who receives the distinction of Defensive Player of the Year, but in the minds of many—and certainly his teammates—he has as much a right to the title as anybody else in the league in 2019.