There are some players whose talents you simply cannot deny, no matter how hard you might want to try. The Pittsburgh Steelers are fortunate to have more than one, but the foremost has to be T.J. Watt, the fifth-year star outside linebacker who led the NFL in sacks last season and has been a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year Award two years running.
Watt has become widely regarded as not just one of the best edge defenders in the NFL, but one of the best defensive players overall. Some might even say he’s one of the best football players in the entire league, period. Given that, there is a certain lack of suspense in revealing that Pro Football Focus including him on their ‘All-PFF defensive line’ for the 2021 season.
While they haven’t put this together in article form as of the time of this writing, and I have no idea if they intend to, they did post a graphic on social media showing Watt within a group that also included Khalil Mack on the opposite edge, with Aaron Donald and Chris Jones in the middle.
All-PFF defensive line entering 2021
QBs beware 💀 pic.twitter.com/YAAwkMpiTT
— PFF (@PFF) May 30, 2021
This aligns with their recent positional rankings, as Mack and Watt were listed as the top two edge defenders in the league, while Donald and Jones were the top two interior defensive linemen. It’s worth noting that Cameron Heyward was ranked third among interior defenders just behind Donald and Jones, so if you really felt the need to, you could call him a second-team All-PFF lineman. But I would be questioning my priorities in life if I reached that point.
At the end of the day, this isn’t telling us anything we didn’t already know. We have been watching Watt evolve over the course of the past four seasons into the dominant force that he is. While it’s still quite early, he is on a clear trajectory for the Hall of Fame if he can keep up anything resembling his current pace.
Through his first four seasons in the NFL since Pittsburgh drafted him 30th overall in 2017, he has registered 49.5 sacks, 230 tackles, 59 tackles for loss, 111 quarterback hits, four interceptions, 25 passes defensed, 17 forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries. About the only thing that he has yet to do aside from record a safety is to score a touchdown.
Watt is coming off of a season in which he lead the league in sacks, hits, and tackles for loss, a rather rare trifecta of impactful defensive playmaking. Yet he finished second to Donald in the voting for the Defensive Player of the Year Award. He lost out to cornerback Stephon Gilmore the year before in a season in which he had 14.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles with two interceptions. The more you snub him, the madder and better he’s going to play.