PFT’s 2021 defensive player of the year: T.J. Watt

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Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt staged a hold-in during training camp and the preseason, as he didn’t practice while waiting for a contract extension.

He finally got it a few days before the start of the season, signing a four-year deal worth $112 million with three of those seasons fully guaranteed.

It’s only been a few months, but Watt’s 2021 season sure makes him look worth every penny.

Watt tied the NFL’s single-season sack record, recording 22.5 in 2021. And while the season expanded to 17 games, he played only 15 of them — missing Week Three and Week 11 due to injury.

His final sack came in Sunday’s win over the Ravens, as he took down quarterback Tyler Huntley late in the second quarter for a 3-yard loss.

But while Watt is one of the league’s best pass rushers, he’s also a stellar run defender. For the second year in a row, he not only led the league in sacks but also in tackles for loss. Watt finished with 21 TFLs in 2021 and had 39 quarterback hits.

He clearly makes Pittsburgh’s defense so much better when he’s on the field.

With his dominance, Watt is PFT’s 2021 defensive player of the year.

Watt was not the only contender. Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald could conceivably win it every year given his dominance and the way he elevates players around him. Donald had 12.5 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, and 25 quarterback hits daily rushing from the interior.

Browns defensive end Myles Garrett had a strong year. Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons was great as a rookie. And Dallas cornerback Trevon Diggs had 11 picks to lead the league.

But Watt tied a longstanding record en route to helping his team get to the playoffs. That’s plenty to tilt the scale in his favor.

39 responses to “PFT’s 2021 defensive player of the year: T.J. Watt

  1. Watt deserves it, Donald could obviously win it every year but TJ has the stats to back it up. Dude is a monster.

  2. Watt played a full 15 games. Missed 1 full half of two others. All the other guys in the top 5 for sack leaders have 4 or more less sacks and played 1 or more games then Watt. He deserves rightfully so.

  3. If the Chargers didn’t call a timeout in OT, the Steelers wouldn’t have made it to the playoffs.

    Watt didn’t lead them at all.

  4. Aaron Donald is the most dominate defense player since Lawrence Taylor. I’d love to see the stats of what he does when he’s double teamed vs what other players do when double teamed. Given that he puts up crazy numbers for anyone yet is doing it against 2 men most plays, they’re sure to be out of this world.

  5. Watt is a one trick pony. Thought this was defensive player of the year Not who can get the most sacks. Parsons played Everywhere LB DL S and 30 THIRTY snaps at CB! Now that is a Defensive Player. But hey just let Parsons Only rush the passer next year and he will break the record by mid season!

  6. Just thinks if the bias refs would actually throw a flag everytime Maxx Crosby is held, until then just try to hold him back.

  7. wallcrasher3 says:
    January 11, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    Trevon Diggs, Dallas…..from a Cowboy hater

    ——————————————————

    Doesn’t even belong in the conversation. The best CB’s never get a lot of interceptions because they don’t get thrown at as much. PFF ranks Diggs 45th among cornerbacks. He led the league in penalties among cornerbacks.

    Ask the Rams if they’d trade Jalen Ramsey for Diggs. It would take a while before they’d stop laughing.

  8. In my opinion, 11 interceptions is more impressive and more meaningful than 22 sacks. That is 11 times where you didn’t just stop the play, you stopped the drive and flipped the field. Double digit picks is a rare feat. I would give it to Diggs

  9. doesn’t matter how great he is, he won’t earn that contract. his cap hit will force the defense to shed talent at other positions, making the defense worse overall. Against a good team he might get a sack and disrupt a few plays, but the defense will get torched. zero chance of contending for the next 4 years, even if they bring in a solid qb.

  10. Congrats to TJ, the best defensive player in the league. He gets held, double and even triple teamed, plays with cracked ribs, and still puts up monster stats in every key category!

  11. The knock on Diggs’ amazing season is that QBs are willing to throw at him. That is not the case with corners like Terrell, White, Ramsey, Lattimore, Alexander…

  12. Parsons should receive this award and defensive rookie of the year. I know he can’t win both, so congrats to Watt on DPY.

  13. Record with an asterisk – Strahan played 16 games – didn’t miss any, most likely played hurt like almost every other football player. Give it to the guy who is the iron man, not the guy who needed 17 games to do it.

  14. doesn’t matter how great he is, he won’t earn that contract. his cap hit will force the defense to shed talent at other positions, making the defense worse overall. Against a good team he might get a sack and disrupt a few plays, but the defense will get torched. zero chance of contending for the next 4 years, even if they bring in a solid qb.

    ————-

    I’m a Steelers fan, and overall, sadly, I somewhat agree with you. But the key to staying good will be drafting well to bring in good players on cheap contracts to surround the big contract stars. Hopefully the Steelers can continue to find good players in the draft. We’ll see.

  15. Watt totally deserves and others like Garrett, Parsons, etc should be mentioned. How about Nick Bosa? 4th in the league in sacks and this despite being double/triple teamed the most in the league.

    It’s funny someone should mention Diggs. He’s a ball hawk no doubt. However, he’s a big liability in coverage. PFF had an article talking about how he gets exposed regularly because he goes for the ball. 11 Ints is not as good as giving up tons of catches.

  16. uclockslicker says:
    January 11, 2022 at 3:48 pm
    Record with an asterisk – Strahan played 16 games – didn’t miss any, most likely played hurt like almost every other football player.

    —————————–

    And had Favre take a dive to gift him the sack record.

  17. ariani1985 says:
    January 11, 2022 at 3:08 pm
    Just think that the packers passed on him twice for Rashad Gary. Let that sink in
    —————–
    No. Watt – 2017 draft. Gary – 2019 draft. They traded down in 2017 and drafted Kevin King instead of drafting Watt. That’s far worse.

  18. “..Record with an asterisk – Strahan played 16 games – didn’t miss any, most likely played hurt like almost every other football player. Give it to the guy who is the iron man, not the guy who needed 17 games to do it…”

    Using your own logic, Watt was inactive for two games this year, so yeah, he did it in 15 games to Strahan’s 16.

  19. 5 sacks on Baker in Week 17? Please. There were 9 or more sacks altogether that game. Did Stefanski get paid or something?

    All the predictable Baker did was drop back.

  20. uclockslicker says:
    January 11, 2022 at 3:48 pm
    Record with an asterisk – Strahan played 16 games – didn’t miss any, most likely played hurt like almost every other football player. Give it to the guy who is the iron man, not the guy who needed 17 games to do it.

    —- If you had read the article you would have noticed TJ was only active for 15 games and Strahan 16. Maybe you should read before commenting or better yet stay off football websites.

  21. I don’t think Miles Garrett even deserves a mention. Garrett doesn’t do anything other than rush the QB and his stats still aren’t as good as Watt’s in that reagrd. Watt is much better against the run and as a linebacker does occasionally drop into coverage. Also, how many of Garrett’s sacks came against Justin Fields in his very first start who came in woefully unprepared for an NFL pass rush?

    Watt, Donald, and Parsons are game changers. They take over a whole game, and play every down, not just third and long. Garrett gets an isolated sack here and there, but isn’t that impactful.

  22. ithinkthereforeiamithink says:
    January 11, 2022 at 4:27 pm
    ariani1985 says:
    January 11, 2022 at 3:08 pm
    Just think that the packers passed on him twice for Rashad Gary. Let that sink in
    —————–
    No. Watt – 2017 draft. Gary – 2019 draft. They traded down in 2017 and drafted Kevin King instead of drafting Watt. That’s far worse.
    ____________

    Ignore, ariana.
    For whatever reason, some of these Viking fans think it’s hilarious to post moronic statements about Green Bay.
    It gets rather tiresome and dumb, but it is what it is.

  23. Congrats to TJ. If only the Cowboys had not been hungry for a bad Taco in the 2017 draft and given us all indigestion.

    And no, Diggs shouldn’t even be mentioned for DPOY. Hopefully he knows just where his game stands and doesn’t get caught up in the hype. If not, maybe his kid can tell him.

  24. jed699 says:
    January 11, 2022 at 5:06 pm
    I don’t think Miles Garrett even deserves a mention. Garrett doesn’t do anything other than rush the QB and his stats still aren’t as good as Watt’s in that reagrd. Watt is much better against the run and as a linebacker does occasionally drop into coverage. Also, how many of Garrett’s sacks came against Justin Fields in his very first start who came in woefully unprepared for an NFL pass rush?

    Watt, Donald, and Parsons are game changers. They take over a whole game, and play every down, not just third and long. Garrett gets an isolated sack here and there, but isn’t that impactful.
    ————————————————————————————-

    Yeah, and TJ Watt gobbled up 4 sacks vs a 3rd string rookie RT on MNF, padding his numbers. C’mon man, be objective.

  25. Great Selection. TJ Watt is a flat out beast. He gets sacks and makes other great plays on defense. Good luck trying to block him

  26. How quickly you all forget or fail to acknowledge the best.
    Reggie had 22 in 12.
    Conversation over.

  27. wallcrasher3 says:

    January 11, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    Trevon Diggs, Dallas…..from a Cowboy hater

     

    31

     

    171

     

    Rate This

    He gave up more yards than any CB in the NFL 1000+

  28. SINCE 2019 T.J. WATT LEADS THE LEAGUE IN:
    –Sacks
    –QB Hits
    –Tackles for Loss
    –Forced Fumbles
    –And has 22 passes defensed
    He is not a one trick pony. He is the best defensive player in the league.
    Deal with it.

  29. Two years in a row he has led the stats for sacks and dropped for a loss plays. It’s hard to deny he is the D.P.O.Y. In fact I haven’t seen a valid argument yet. Nobody is giving it to T.J. He is taking it and the rest of us can do nothing about it. He’s a beast.

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