It won’t be a while yet before the Associated Press publishes a 2021 NFL All-Pro List, but that doesn’t stop other venues and outlets from creating their own. Pro Football Focus published its own All-Pro List yesterday, and I’m sure it will have fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers raising their eyebrows.
First and foremost, it should be acknowledged that Cameron Heyward was chosen as one of their first-team interior defensive linemen, along with Aaron Donald. The Kansas City Chiefs’ Chris Jones, whom they will see this week, was among those on the second-team unit.
What will catch people’s eye, however, is the fact that they did not choose the Steelers’ T.J. Watt as a first-team edge defender. That honor went to the Cleveland Browns’ Myles Garrett, along with Maxx Crosby of the Las Vegas Raiders, even though Watt finished the season with a commanding lead in sacks. Here is what Sam Monson wrote about Garrett and Watt:
Garrett boasts the best PFF pass-rushing grade of any edge rusher in the league this year (92.7). He recorded 78 pressures, which isn’t the most in the NFL, but he also twice faced Ben Roethlisberger’s 2.15-second average time to throw. Garrett did lead the league in winning pass-rush reps that didn’t result in pressure due to early throws. He had 56 such plays, and his 25.7% pass-rush win rate was tied for the second-best mark among edge rushers.
Watt tied Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record in Week 18 and put together a remarkable statistical season. Twenty-two of his 63 pressures (eighth among edge rushers) were sacks, a rare conversion rate that is not solely attributed to the individual rusher.
According to their own numbers, Watt actually had the second-highest pass-rush productivity rating in the league—not behind either Crosby (who was fourth) or Garrett (fifth), but the Cincinnati Bengals’ Trey Hendrickson. They have eight other players who generated more pressures this season than Watt, however, though all of them have more pass-rush attempts—many of them significantly more.
Watt was fourth in their pass-rush win rate at 21.4 percent, behind Crosby’s 26.8, Rashan Gary’s 26.0, and Garrett’s 25.6.
Suffice it to say that the Associated Press will not be concerning itself with PFF’s pass rush win rate numbers, which is a subjective attempt to gauge how frequently a pass rusher ‘wins’ a rep, whether it generates a pressure or otherwise has any impact at all on the play.
Watt will undoubtedly be a first-team All-Pro yet again for the third year in a row. After tying the all-time single-season sack record, it also feels inevitable that he will finally win the Defensive Player of the Year Award, as well. He finished the season with five forced fumbles, 21 tackles for loss, 39 quarterback hits, and seven passes defensed, as well.