According to reports, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin does not intend to put fourth-year outside linebacker T.J. Watt on the field for the defense in Sunday’s regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns.
That means that his 2020 stat line is settled. He has 53 tackles with 23 for loss, 15 sacks, an interception, seven passes defensed, and two forced fumbles. He holds a 1.5-sack lead over Aaron Donald, with six more tackles for loss than Roquan Smith, so they have some room to catch up.
Is his stat line enough to win him his first Defensive Player of the Year Award? He put up similarly impressive numbers last year, including much more takeaway production, and failed to win it. But he needs to start adding hardware to catch up to big brother J.J. Watt, one of just two players to ever win the award twice—and he’s seen those trophies more times than he can count.
“Yes, I’ve seen all three of them. Every time I FaceTime, they’re in the background, so I’ve seen them plenty of times”, he told reporters earlier today. “Every time I visit him, I go in his office and I see all three of them sitting there. Like I tell people all the time, I’ve been to that awards show, three, four times, including his Man of the Year Award”.
While big brother J.J. loves to play the hype man for his kid brother and is campaigning for T.J. to win the award this year, he also likes to remind him that he has a long way to go to catch up to his own career accomplishments. It’s a long shadow he’s cast, something T.J. has always been aware of.
“I tell people, every time that I went, I would always leave more motivated than when I walked in the building”, he said of attending J.J.’s awards shows, “and that’s going from when I was in high school and he first won the award, to when I was in college, and then when he just won the Man of the Year Award”.
“It’s so special to go to that night, and even last year when I didn’t win the award, just to be surrounded by your peers, who are the elite of the elite in the National Football League, it’s special company to be around”, he added. “Just to be up for the award, none of that’s even up yet, but I think it’s just really, really cool to be in that conversation, and winning it and all that stuff is something for a different day, but just trying to continue to get better each and every day. I’m not satisfied”.
The Associated Press began naming a Defensive Player of the Year in 1971. Since then, a Steelers player has earned the honor seven times. That’s three more than any other team. Joe Greene won it twice, with Mel Blount and Jack Lambert in the mid-1970s. Rod Woodson added one in 1993. James Harrison won in 2008, and Troy Polamalu is the most recent in 2010. Watt would be the eighth, should he win this year.