Steelers News

TJ Watt Named 2021 Defensive Player Of The Year

T.J. Watt

It’s finally happened. Pittsburgh Steelers OLB TJ Watt has been named the AP’s 2021 Defensive Player of the Year as announced during this year’s NFL Honors that took place Thursday night. Watt beat out Rams’ DT Aaron Donald and Cowboys’ LB Micah Parsons to take home the hardware in a season well-deserved of football’s top defensive honor.

The award was announced by JJ Watt, who has won it three times.

Watt said his big brother being on stage was a “pleasant surprise” in a post-award Q&A with the media.

“It was a pleasant surprise to see him come out and present me the award,” he said via the team site. “Just because me and him both know all the work that’s gone into it. I’ve seen him get that award three times and to be able to be up there and have that award myself was a very surreal moment. I’m not a huge public speaker so that embrace definitely calmed my nerves a little bit and helped me, for sure. Which is basically the essence of our relationship.”

In a brief acceptance speech, Watt thanked his teammates, coaches, fiancé, and noted how many times he had been to the event to watch someone else take home the trophy. Now, it’s all his. Check it out here as tweeted out by the Steelers’ account.

Here’s the full text of what he said.

“Wow! I just want to thank my parents. Mom, dad, this is insane. My brother’s Derek and J.J., you guys have just pushed me so much to be able to get me to this point, My beautiful fiancé, Dani, for being my number one supporter. My teammates and coaches back home in Pittsburgh, this truly is not possible without you guys. There’s so many guys that put in so much work that goes unnoticed and that’s everything from the guys in the cafeteria to the guys that are taping ankles – and this one’s for all you guys. And I grew up coming to this award show, I think I’ve been five or six times, never came home with hardware. But every time I left more motivated than the time I got here. And I promise this only motivates me more. So, thank you.”

Watt ran way with the award, netting 40 of the 48 total votes. Micah Parsons received five while Aaron Donald had three.

Update: The AP is now saying Watt received 42 votes, not 40.

Watt finished the season tying Michael Strahan’s official sack record with 22.5 of them in 2021. He hit that mark despite missing two full games and halves of two others. On the year, Watt finished his fifth season with 64 total tackles, those 22.5 sacks, 21 tackles for loss (also leading the league), seven pass deflections, five forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. He also had a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the team’s Wild Card loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

HIs best performance came in Week 17’s crucial win over the Cleveland Browns, registering four sacks for the first time in his career. He’s the first Steeler to do so in over 20 seasons.

Through five seasons, Watt has 72 sacks, third most of anyone since sacks became official in 1982, trailing only Reggie White and big brother JJ Watt. At just 27 years old, Watt is on a legitimate Hall of Fame pace and is poised to set all of the Steelers’ records. He needs just nine more sacks to set the all-time Steelers’ franchise record, something he should do mid-way through next season.

Watt was deserving of the award the last two seasons but lost out to CB Stephon Gilmore and DT Aaron Donald. This marks Watt’s first DPOY honors and the first Steeler to win it since Troy Polamalu in 2010.

He’s now just the seventh Steeler to be named Defensive Player of the Year, joining: Joe Greene (who won it twice), Jack Lambert, Mel Blount, Rod Woodson, James Harrison, and Polamalu.

Teammates took to congratulate him after the award was announced.

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