You’d think a guy with a league-leading 15 sacks last season would be content with the season he had and the plays he made. Not T.J. Watt. Despite emerging as one of the game’s most feared pass rushers, Watt’s looking at ways to improve his numbers in 2021. Hopefully that will lead to a Defensive Player of the Year Award, but Watt isn’t worried about any hardware that isn’t a Lombardi trophy.
In a Tuesday Zoom call, Watt was asked if he felt any extra motivation after finishing third in DPOY voting in 2019 and runner-up last season.
“I don’t think it’s driving me,” Watt told reporters. “I think more than anything, just want to be the best possible player that I can be, not only for myself, but for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I want to continue to make splash plays. I think a big thing for me is just noticing all the plays that I didn’t make last year and wishing that I could’ve converted on some forced fumbles and fumble recoveries and turnovers and sacks and all those types of TFL. Those splash plays we talk about. Yeah, there’s a lot of good from last year, but there’s also a lot of stuff that I want to continue to improve on.”
Watt averaged one sack per game last season,15 in 15 games, and became only the second Steeler to ever officially lead the league in sacks, joining Kevin Greene. Watt’s 23 tackles for loss also led the NFL, and he’s lapped the field when it comes to QB hits.
One category that dipped last season were forced fumbles. After a league-high eight of them in 2019, he registered just two in 2020. It’s unclear why that number fell. It certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying, and can probably just be chalked up to bad luck. He also failed to recover a fumble after recovering on four of them the year before. He had a golden opportunity against Washington but failed after trying to pick the ball up and run. The Football Team recovered.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) December 8, 2020
For Watt to win Defensive Player of the Year honors, he’ll need to stuff the stat sheet every which way. Eight forced fumbles and 14.5 sacks in 2019 wasn’t good enough. Nor was leading the NFL with 15 sacks a year ago. He lost out to deserving players — Stephon Gilmore was elite in 2019 and Aaron Donald may be this generation’s most dominant defensive player, but Watt may need a 15-16 sack, 5+ forced fumble, throw-in-a-defensive-touchdown type of season to win his first DPOY trophy.
One of the hardest workers and most studious players on the team, Watt says he’s embracing ways to get better.
“That’s why I love this game so much. You’re never at your ceiling. So I’m just trying to get better each and every year. And that’s what I intend to do.”