Last season, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt won the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year award and deservedly so. With Watt winning the award, he beat out a talented player in Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. In a recent interview with Peter King of NBC Sports, Watt was asked about him beating out Donald for that award last season and if he ever watches the Rams defensive tackle play and thinks about what an accomplishment it was for him to finally best him last season.
“Not really,” Watt told King. “I mean, I love watching football games. I mean, obviously if he’s [Donald] playing on like a Monday night or a Thursday night, I’m gonna watch and always try to steal some sort of move, or just see how teams block him and how he defeats them because once you get very well known as a defensive player, a game-wrecker, there’s so many ways where teams try to eliminate you. And I’m always looking for those guys that command offenses’ attention like he does. So, that’s mainly what I’m watching, always trying to steal something more than like being in awe of it.”
On the heels of that great answer from Watt, King asked the Steelers outside linebacker if he has ever taken something from Donald that makes him look at his own game and notes where a certain move came from.
“I don’t know if there’s anything that’s specific,” Watt said. “I think there’s just so many things that he does well, and it’s all about playing with a high motor and taking, knowing, just playing as hard as you can then getting the guy in there for you and then getting back in there as soon as you’re ready. But, yeah, I love the game of football. I love watching it. I have the utmost respect for all the players that do it at a high level and I’m always gonna try to steal something.”
The way that Watt has played since entering the NFL in 2017, there’s probably a lot of other defensive players around the league that watch him regularly and looking to steal a thing or two from him. After all, Watt recorded 22.5 sacks in 2021 which tied him with Michael Strahan for the all-time single-season record. He now has 72 sacks for his career in just five seasons. Donald, on the other hand, has 98 career sacks in eight NFL seasons. Through his first five NFL seasons, Donald, who has won the Defensive Player of the Year award three times already, had 59.5 sacks.
During his interview with Watt, King compared the outside linebacker beating out Donald for the defensive Player of the Year award in 2021 to former Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly beating out J.J. Watt for the same award in 2013. He made it sound like the Steelers outside linebacker beating out Donald was a huge upset of sorts. That’s crazy.
So, with T.J. Watt now having one Defensive Player of the Year award on his shelf, can he repeat in 2022? You certainly must like his chances, right? Currently, FanDuel Sportsbook has T.J. Watt listed at +800 to win the defensive Player of the Year award and that’s the second-best odds behind Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett at +700. As for Donald, he’s listed third behind Watt with +900 odds. The way that Watt has performed during training camp so far this summer, King would be wise to not bet against the Steelers outside linebacker repeating as Defensive player of the Year in 2022.