Avery Williamson might not have been a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers for too long, having been acquired midseason via trade, just before the trade deadline, but he hasn’t ever appeared to have any problem fitting in, either into the culture or into their defensive system.
It also didn’t take him long to embrace the culture and to accept his new teammates and be accepted by them. He has already spoken glowingly several times, for example, of Robert Spillane, the man whom he has replaced in the starting lineup over the course of the past few weeks.
He’s also shown himself to be a pretty good hype man, though I’m not sure that it will make a difference. Last year, Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt was among the finalists for the Defensive Player of the Year Award, but did not win. He has about as strong an argument this year as he did a year ago, but will he win? Williamson talked about Watt during his media interview yesterday.
“He just has a knack for getting to the quarterback. He’s got a knack for getting the ball out as well”, he said. “He does more than just sack the quarterback, he gets sack fumbles, fumbles on the running backs. He’s definitely a phenomenal player, and I’m glad I get to play alongside him. He’s having a phenomenal season. He’s got my vote for Defensive MVP of the league”.
One of the most surprising aspects of the season is actually the fact that Watt only has two forced fumbles this year, when you consider that he has averaged seven forced fumbles per season over the course of the past two years. He led the league with eight last year and it wasn’t enough for him to win.
This year, however, he has a league-high 15 sacks through 15 games, the highest total of his career and tied for the second-most in a single season in franchise history. His 23 tackles for loss are also the most in the NFL, as are his (according to Pro Football Reference) 41 quarterback hits.
While he might only have two forced fumbles, he does also have an interception, along with seven passes defensed. Nobody else with at least 10 sacks this season has more than four passes defensed, or an interception, so that is something to consider for his candidacy.
The Steelers have more Defensive Player of the Year Awards in their organizational history than any other team by a good margin, but it’s been a decade since the last time it has happened. Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu won in 2010. Outside linebacker James Harrison also won in 2008.