Steelers' T.J. Watt Voted Over Cowboys' Micah Parsons for 2021 NFL DPOY by Execs

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVDecember 23, 2021

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) plays against the Tennessee Titans during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
AP Photo/Don Wright

NFL executives voted Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt as the favorite to win the 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award.

Tom Pelissero of NFL.com provided the full voting results from front-office personnel as the hotly contested DPOY race heads in to the stretch run of the regular season:

  • Watt (Steelers): 8 votes
  • Micah Parsons (Dallas Cowboys): 4
  • Trevon Diggs (Cowboys): 3
  • Myles Garrett (Cleveland Browns): 3
  • Joey Bosa (Los Angeles Chargers): 2
  • Aaron Donald (Los Angeles Rams): 1
  • Robert Quinn (Chicago Bears): 1
  • Jalen Ramsey (Rams): 1

Watt leads the NFL with 17.5 sacks heading into Week 16. He's improved his sack total every season of his five-year career since the Steelers selected him in the first round of the 2017 draft, and his 60 sacks since 2018 lead the league over that span.

That's not the only way the 27-year-old University of Wisconsin product has impacted games, though. He's also recorded 53 total tackles, four forced fumbles, four passes defended and three fumble recoveries for the 7-6-1 Steelers.

"He can rush the passer and he can drop and he does a lot of multiple things for their defense," an NFC executive told Pelissero. "He's not just a pass rusher only."

An AFC exec added: "He's not the most gifted dude, but he's relentless."

Both Cowboys on the list, Parsons and Diggs, have a strong case for Defensive Player of the Year, but they may end up splitting votes between themselves.

Parsons, the No. 12 pick in the 2021 draft, has made an immediate high-end impact with 76 total tackles, 12 sacks, three forced fumbles and three passes defended. The linebacker was overwhelmingly voted the Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite in Pelissero's poll.

Diggs has enjoyed a breakout second NFL season with a league-leading 10 interceptions (nobody else has more than seven) along with 19 passes defended to emerge as a premier shutdown cornerback.

While both Cowboys stars, and everyone else named in the poll, are having terrific seasons, Watt is probably the rightful favorite with three weeks to play.

That said, if the linebacker fails to add to his gaudy sack total and the Steelers, who currently sit ninth in the AFC, miss the playoffs, it'll open the door for everyone else in the race to make their case before the award voting takes place at the end of the regular season.

The Defensive Player of the Year will be announced during the annual NFL Honors show on Feb. 10.