(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
After coming up short the last two seasons, T.J. Watt was finally named Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. The voting wasn't close either, as Watt received 42 votes compared to Micah Parsons' five votes and Aaron Donald's three. Watt joins Joe Greene (1972, 1974), Mel Blount (1975), Jack Lambert (1976), Rod Woodson (1993), James Harrison (2008) and Troy Polamalu (2010) as members of the Steelers organization to win the prestigious DPOY award. Five of the six retired players mentioned are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Harrison isn't eligible yet, however.
"I just want to thank my parents. Mom, dad, this is insane," Watt said via Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. "My brothers, Derek and J.J., you guys have pushed me so much to get me to this point. My beautiful fiancé, Dani, for being my number one supporter. My teammates and coaches back in Pittsburgh, this is truly not possible without you guys. There are so many guys that put in so much work that goes unnoticed. That's everyone from the guys in the cafeteria to the guys that are taping ankles. This ones for all of you guys.
"I grew up coming to this awards show, I think five or six times, and never came home with hardware. But every time I left more motivated than the time I got here. I promise this only motivates me more."
J.J. Watt announced the news that his brother T.J. won DPOY at the NFL Honors award show in Los Angeles. T.J. now joins J.J. as a DPOY winner, an award that J.J. has won three times.
After Watt was nominated as DPOY last year, he posted the Michael Jordan meme with the caption, " ... And I took that personally." Watt used that motivation and had an historic 2021 season, as he tied Michael Strahan's NFL single-season sack record with 22.5 sacks. Along with leading the league in sacks, Watt also led the NFL in tackles for loss with 21. It was the second consecutive year that Watt led the league in sacks and tackles for loss.
Watt is one of only two players in NFL history to have 20 plus sacks in 14 or fewer games since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. The only other one to do it was Hall of Famer Reggie White, who had 21 sacks in 12 games in 1987 in a strike-shortened season. He also became the 12th player since sacks were counted as a statistic to have at least 20 sacks in a single season, which is something his brother J.J. did twice.
Watt's 72 career sacks in just five seasons rank fourth in Steelers history. It's very likely that Watt will breaks Harrison's franchise record of 80.5 sacks in 2022. Watt joined White and his brother J.J. as the only players since 1982 to have 70 plus sacks in their first five seasons in the NFL. Watt also is the winner of the Deacon Jones Sack Leader Award, presented to the player who led the NFL in sacks. Along with tying the NFL single-season sack record, Watt broke Harrison's single-season franchise record of 16 sacks, which was set in 2008.
Watt also became just the third player to lead the NFL in sacks in consecutive seasons, joining White (1987-88) and Mark Gastineau (1983-84).
Watt was named to the Pro Bowl for the fourth consecutive season and was voted as the Steelers' MVP by his teammates for the third straight year. This is the third consecutive year that Watt's been named first-team All-Pro.