Steelers' T.J. Watt Named 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year

Adam WellsFebruary 11, 2022

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 06: T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers and AFC waves during the second half of the 2022 NFL Pro Bowl against the NFC at Allegiant Stadium on February 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After a historic 2021 season, Pittsburgh Steelers star T.J. Watt has been named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. 

The 27-year-old beat out Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams, Micah Parsons of the Dallas Cowboys and Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns for the award. 

Josh Dubow @JoshDubowAP

Voting for AP Defensive Player of the Year:<br>T.J. Watt 42<br>Micah Parsons 5<br>Aaron Donald 3

In a season when the Steelers offense struggled to do anything consistently, Watt was the one stabilizing force on the defense and played a key role in their surprise run to the postseason. 

The Wisconsin product tied Michael Strahan's NFL record with 22.5 sacks during the regular season. His 21 tackles for loss were tied with Nick Bosa of the San Francisco 49ers for most in the NFL. 

StatMuse @statmuse

All-time single-season sack record:<br><br>22.5 β€” TJ Watt (15 games) <br>22.5 β€” Michael Strahan (16 games) <a href="https://t.co/yGocZREMNb">pic.twitter.com/yGocZREMNb</a>

Now in his fifth season, Watt has established himself as one of the most dominant players in the league regardless of position. He also led the NFL in sacks and tackles for loss in 2020. 

His ability to get after the quarterback makes him a nightmare for opposing teams, but he's earned high marks for developing into an all-around defender. 

"He can rush the passer and he can drop and he does a lot of multiple things for their defense," one NFC executive told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero in December. "He's not just a pass-rusher only."

Since the NFL adopted the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year as its official award in 1971, the Steelers have had more winners than any other team. Watt won the eighth DPOY honor in franchise history and the first since Troy Polamalu in 2010.