Pittsburgh Steelers’ outside linebacker TJ Watt has been snubbed of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. Voters instead gave it to Los Angeles Rams’ defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Donald narrowly edged out Watt for the top spot. Miami Dolphins’ CB Xavien Howard coming in third.
Donald won by seven votes, 27-20, over Watt. Howard received three votes.
Defensive Player of the Year voting:
Aaron Donald: 27
TJ Watt: 20
Xavien Howard: 3
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) February 7, 2021
Watt had a fantastic 2020, leading the league with 15 sacks. He became only the second Steeler to ever lead the NFL in sacks (since the stat became official in 1982), joining Kevin Greene, who had 14 of them in 1994.
Watt also finished 2020 with an NFL-high 23 tackles for loss. He had 53 total tackles and 41 QB hits in 15 starts, sitting out the regular season finale against Cleveland. His 49.5 sacks through the first four seasons of his career are a top-ten mark all-time and by far the most by any Steeler.
But it wasn’t enough to take home the hardware. Donald got the nod, despite having lesser stats in one more game played. Donald finished the year with 13.5 sacks in 16 games to go along with 45 tackles and 14 TFL. The only category Donald finished better was forced fumbles, edging Watt out 4-2. Donald’s a terrific player and future Hall of Famer but this felt like Watt’s year. However, the writing seemed to be on the wall with Donald winning the vote in both NFL.com’s voting and the Pro Football Writers Association results.
Six Steelers have won the Award, the last being Troy Polamalu in 2010. The others include: James Harrison, Rod Woodson, Jack Lambert, Mel Blount, and Joe Greene. Greene is the only one to win it twice.
The Defensive Player of the Year Award started in 1971, when Minnesota Vikings’ DT Alan Page won it. New England Patriots’ CB Stephon Gilmore won it in 2019. Older brother JJ Watt has taken home that hardware three times.
All three Watt brothers reacted after the award was announced.
— TJ Watt (@_TJWatt) February 7, 2021
Aaron Donald is an absolutely incredible player. I love watching him play & he’s headed to the Hall of Fame without question. This has nothing to do with AD personally.
This is me saying what my brother won’t.
TJ played 1 less game and STILL led the NFL in every major category. pic.twitter.com/m1vzrD88WU
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) February 7, 2021
— Derek Watt (@DerekWatt34) February 7, 2021