TJ Watt has been named AFC Defensive Player of the Year by 101 Awards, the group announced today. The event to hand out the awards in-person has been cancelled because of COVID but will still be done virtually on March 6th. The awards are selected by 101 members of the national media who cover the league.
Watt was the no-brainer choice for the AFC side of things. He finished 2020 as the AFC and NFL’s sack leader with 15 of them to go along with a league-leading 23 tackles for loss, seven pass deflections, and two forced fumbles. He is only the second Steeler ever to officially lead the NFL in sacks, joining the late great Kevin Greene. Already in his career, Watt’s racked up 49.5 sacks. He’s well on his way to becoming the Steelers’ all-time sack leader, more than halfway to surpassing James Harrison’s 80.5.
The 101 Awards aren’t league-wide but broken down by conference. In the NFC, Aaron Donald won Defensive Player of the Year after another fantastic season. Donald is Watt’s main competition for the official, AP Defensive MVP award that will be announced February 6th at NFL Honors. There’s also Miami Dolphins’ CB Xavien Howard, who led the league with ten interceptions in 2020. Donald recently was named PFWA’s Defensive MVP.
For the rest of the AFC, Tennessee Titans’ RB Derrick Henry won Offensive Player of the Year while Cleveland’s Kevin Stefanski won Coach of the Year. In the NFC, Aaron Rodgers won AFC Offensive Player of the Year while Washington’s Ron Rivera was named the conference’s top head coach.
Watt is the first Steeler to win the award since Troy Polamalu in 2010.