Along with most awards, the Defensive Player of the Year Award winner for the 2019 season will not be announced until the NFL Honors ceremony, which takes place the day before the Super Bowl. In other words, we still have a while yet before we know who wins the award this year.
And Pittsburgh Steelers fans are more invested than they are typically because, of course, they understand that they have a horse in the race this year, really for the first time in a good while. The last strong candidate they had was Troy Polamalu in 2010, when he actually won.
This year, their ‘nominee’, so to speak, is outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who finished the season with 14.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, four recoveries, and two interceptions, to go along with other accolades and statistics that speak to the quality of his campaign. He doesn’t have the gaudiest numbers in every category—Shaquil Barrett led the NFL with 19.5 sacks, for example—but the tape shows how strong a candidate he is.
While he would surely like to win the award, he’s not going to go Stephon Gilmore and essentially say that he is the defensive player of the year. “I’m not for self-advocating”, Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted him as saying this past week. “I’m not going to come out here and say I should be this or I should be that”.
“I put everything I had into the season and I would’ve loved to make a lot more plays”, the two-time Pro Bowler went on to say. “I think that’s the hardest part when you end a season, you go back and look at all the plays you could’ve made, you were so close. I just tried to do my best to help this team win games. I think individually and collectively, it wasn’t enough, and we just have to find ways to be better this offseason, start fresh next year”.
In the meanwhile, Watt is going to spend this time in the immediate aftermath of the end of the Steelers season by doing some decompressing. He’s not immediately diving into a strict workout regimen. Instead, he’s down in Texas preparing to watch his older brother, J.J. Watt, play his first game returning from the Reserve/Injured List as the Houston Texans host the Buffalo Bills.
A number of Steelers players of the past have won the Defensive Player of the Year Award, from Joe Greene and Jack Lambert to James Harrison and Rod Woodson. They have seven in total, including Greene twice, while no other franchise has more than four (both the New York Giants and the Baltimore Ravens). Should Watt win, he would tie Lambert as the Steeler to do it earliest in his career, in year three.