T.J. Watt for Defensive Player of the Year? Who says no?
The only people who have are voters, who declined to give Watt the award two years running. Minkah Fitzpatrick sure hopes that streak ends this season. Speaking to reporters on a Monday Zoom call, Fitzpatrick said there is one clear winner for the award.
“Definitely deserves that DPOY Award,” Fitzpatrick said of Watt via Steelers.com. “He’s been robbed the last two years. So hopefully he could get that this year.”
In 2019, Watt lost out to New England Patriots’ cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Last year, Los Angeles Rams’ DT Aaron Donald took home the hardware despite Watt leading the league in sacks in just 15 games played. No Steeler has won the award since Troy Polamalu in 2010. Watt winning would make him the third Steeler linebacker to ever do it, joining Jack Lambert and James Harrison.
Somehow, he has taken his game and production to another level in 2021. With 16 sacks already, he’s surpassed his 2020 total and tied James Harrison for the franchise single-season record. He has two more sacks than his next-closest competition, Cleveland’s Myles Garrett with 14, and needs seven sacks over the next five games to break Michael Strahan’s official record of 22.5. With the performances Watt has had, it’s certainly possible.
It’s all the more remarkable Watt has registered these numbers despite missing two full games and more than half of another, sitting out the second half against the Raiders and missing part of the fourth quarter and all of overtime against the Lions. He’s likely not been at nearly 100% for much of the season, and is still dominating offensive tackles. Watt was cleared to play Sunday after missing practice all week due to COVID. Much like Ben Roethlisberger’s presence on offense, the mere sight of #90 galvanizes Pittsburgh’s defense.
“He’s a gamer,” Fitzpatrick said. “He’s a guy that’s gonna go out there and just this cause havoc. I think just the energy that he plays with the passion that he plays with. I don’t wanna call it anger, but when he is out there, he’s angry. That just inspired everybody out there to to play at that same level. Whether we’re up, whether we’re down, TJ’s gonna be consistent in the way he’s moving up and down the field.”
While there are still five games to go, it’s hard to see someone other than Watt winning DPOY. His toughest competition is Garrett, who would need to finish the year with more sacks than Watt, and Cowboys’ CB Trevon Diggs, who has been an interception machine with nine interceptions and a pair of pick-sixes. But Diggs has been a hot and cold corner and not nearly the consistently dominant player Watt has been. It would be an upset, and an outrage, for anyone other than Watt to take home the trophy.