He has had a record-breaking season, and today T.J. Watt set another record when he was voted the Steelers Most Valuable Player by his teammates for the third consecutive year. Watt becomes the only player in team history to win the award three straight years, and the fifth player in team history to win it three or more times.
"It's a special honor and truly special because it's voted on by the guys in the locker room, the guys that see the work each and every day," said Watt. "I'm very thankful to receive the award. Very grateful for it.
"I'm always trying to be more consistent. It's definitely something that I continue to work on as I grow in my career and just wanting to continue to be consistent not only on the field, but also as a teammate, as a leader in the locker room and just the way that I conduct myself week in and week out. It's something that I'm always going to be striving to get better at."
Watt set a new Steelers single-season sack record this season with 21.5 sacks and counting. He not only surpassed the record set by linebacker James Harrison in 2008 when he had 16 sacks, he shattered it.
"It's all about tradition here and to be able to put your footprint in as part of the tradition here is special," said Watt. "I know it's an individual goal. I'm not big on individual achievements. But doing this with such a wonderful group of guys is what it's all about. To be able to be a part of this franchise hopefully for a long time, this is very special. But I really do have more work to do."
T.J. Watt was voted the Steelers Most Valuable Player in 2021 by his teammates
He is also just one sack away from tying Hall of Famer Michael Strahan's NFL single-season sack record of 22.5 sacks, and 1.5 sacks away from breaking it. Strahan set the record in 2001 and it has stood for 20 years.
Watt has recorded at least half a sack in 10 games this season and has eight games with multiple sacks. He recorded four sacks against the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football, the most by a Steelers defender since Joey Porter had four sacks in 2001 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winning the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for the third time this season.
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. Watt recorded his 21.5 sacks in 14 games, missing two games due to injury this season, and a good portion of a third game. The only other one to do it was the legendary Reggie White, who had 21 sacks in 12 games in 1987 in a strike-shortened season.
Watt also became the 12th player since sacks were counted as a statistic to have at least 20 sacks in a single season, something his brother, Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt, did twice.
Watt, who has 71 career sacks, also joined White and his brother, J.J. Watt, as the only players since 1982 to have 70 plus sacks in their first five seasons in the NFL.
Watt leads the NFL with 20 tackles for a loss and 36 quarterback hits this season.
Watt is a football junkie, always studying the game, studying ways he can improve, and watching film endlessly to get that edge on the next guy because it's what he loves.
"Just being a fan of the game, loving football and trying to find any ways to get an edge," said Watt. "I think that's the most important thing at this level. Every single guy is watching film. Every single guy is practicing hard and thinks they're trying the hardest. There really can only be one person that is watching film the most, the best, most efficient way possible. There's a difference between just clicking through plays and actually watching plays with a purpose. I'm just trying to continue to get better at having a purpose when I watch film and trying to pick up on little things that will give me an edge."
Watt puts in endless work during the week to be able to pull off the sacks, but it looks effortless on game day. He just has a knack for being able to shed off those who have the daunting task of keeping him away from their quarterback. And then he can't help but enjoy the moment with his signature high kick.
"Once you get a sack it's more like a blackout feeling," said Watt. "You do the leg kick and just try to get the crowd as much into it as possible, especially at home. And then you kind of go to the bench and it hits you a little bit like that was cool to have another one. I'm human, I think a little bit about it. But that's not the number one goal. It's more just wanting to be a game wrecker week in and week out and trying to perform the best that I can without putting my other teammates in jeopardy."
While he puts a lot of work in, it's something he does out of a love for the game, a passion for it, never minding the extra effort because he knows how special his opportunity is.
"I only get one chance at this. You only get to play for so long," said Watt. "It's definitely very time consuming, but it would be different if I didn't love to do it. It has consumed a lot a lot of my life and I'm completely okay with that. The people around me truly push me and understand my obsession with this game and wanting to be the best. That makes it a lot easier for me to want to do it. It'd be a lot tougher if the people around me were kind of telling me to stop watching film and stuff like that. It helps to have a good support system for sure."
Watt has been a consistent, steady force for the defense all season, someone those who play with him and against him refer to as a game-wrecker.
"He's one of the best defensive players in the game," said defensive tackle Cameron Heyward. "He's the best outside linebacker. He's the best defensive player to me. To have a guy that can change the game in one play.
"He is a playmaker. He is a rare breed.
"He is a game wrecker."
Even those who have never been sacked by him, have never had to face his fury, get it.
"He is a game changer and a game wrecker," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "I've been a part of guys like that, Troy Polamalu, who can change a football game. It doesn't happen on defense that often. To be a literal game changer on defense is something completely special."
That game wrecker moniker is what matters to Watt. While his individual stats standout like no other, for him it's not about those stats. It's about having an impact on the final outcome of the game.
"I think it's something that I set out to be each game, a game wrecker," said Watt. "It's definitely a goal of mine to be described in that way. I've gotten away from the statistical goals and all that stuff. I'm focused on being the best player I can be week in and week out.
"I just try to put together good performance after good performance and if that classifies me as a game wrecker, then I'll definitely take that."
Watt has found a multitude of ways to make plays, from sacks, to forced fumbles, and everything in between. He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his dominating play against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 13, which included 3.5 sacks, six tackles, six quarterback hits and a forced fumble. And keep in mind he missed practice the week leading up to the game while on the Reserve/COVID-19 List. He also won AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 6 of the season.
"I love football with all my heart," said Watt. "This is what I love to do. I'm the luckiest man in the world to get to do this for a living. I'm putting everything that I possibly can to become the best player that I can possibly be. Not only for myself, but for my teammates, for the City of Pittsburgh. People that would kill to be in my position. I feel like I haven't lost sight of that.
"I truly am so lucky to do this. That's why I put so much into it. That's why so much passion comes out on game days because it's just so authentic and real and nothing here is fake. I love doing what I do."
Steelers MVPs since 1969
1969 - Roy Jefferson, WR
1970 - Joe Greene, DT
1971 - Andy Russell, LB
1972 - Franco Harris, RB
1973 - Ron Shanklin, WR
1974 - Glen Edwards, S
1975 - Mel Blount, CB
1976 - Jack Lambert, LB
1977 - Terry Bradshaw, QB
1978 - Terry Bradshaw, QB
1979 - John Stallworth, WR
1980 - Donnie Shell, SS
1981 - Jack Lambert, LB
1982 - Dwayne Woodruff, CB
1983 - Gary Anderson, K
1984 - John Stallworth, WR
1985 - Louis Lipps, WR
1986 - Bryan Hinkle, LB
1987 - Mike Merriweather, LB
1988 - David Little, LB & Rod Woodson, CB
1989 - Louis Lipps, WR
1990 - Rod Woodson, CB
1991 - Greg Lloyd, LB
1992 - Barry Foster, RB
1993 - Rod Woodson, CB
1994 - Greg Lloyd, LB
1995 - Neil O'Donnell, QB
1996 - Jerome Bettis, RB
1997 - Jerome Bettis, RB
1998 - Levon Kirkland, LB
1999 - Levon Kirkland, LB
2000 - Jerome Bettis, RB
2001 - Kordell Stewart, QB
2002 - Joey Porter, LB & Hines Ward, WR
2003 - Hines Ward, WR
2004 - James Farrior, LB
2005 - Casey Hampton, NT & Hines Ward, WR
2006 - Willie Parker, RB
2007 - James Harrison, LB
2008 - James Harrison, LB
2009 - Ben Roethlisberger, QB
2010 - Troy Polamalu, S
2011 - Antonio Brown, WR
2012 - Heath Miller, TE
2013 - Antonio Brown, WR
2014 - Le'Veon Bell, RB
2015 - Antonio Brown, WR
2016 - Le'Veon Bell, RB
2017 - Antonio Brown, WR
2018 - JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR
2019 - T.J. Watt, LB
2020 - T.J. Watt, LB
2021 - T.J. Watt, LB