Watt will he think of next?

It's almost all about production for T.J. Watt, but even more than that it's about a philosophy that drives him to produce.

"As a defensive player you can impact the game on every single play," Watt explained after the Steelers had beaten the Dolphins, 27-14, in late October at Heinz Field. "When you do get those chances, it's about capitalizing and making the most of them. It'd be a good play just to be able to get the sack and get the quarterback down. Why not make it a great play and at least go for the football and try to rip it out?

"Trying to take plays from good to great is the field that I'm in."

Watt had punctuated the win over Miami with a sack of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, a strip of the football and a fumble recovery at the Dolphins' 22-yard line midway through the fourth quarter with the Steelers ahead, 24-14.

It was his second sack and second forced fumble of the night, but it could have been better.

"To pick it up and run it in for a touchdown would have been the ultimate," Watt maintained.

Such is the thought process of the Steelers' third-year outside linebacker and first-team All-Pro, and the potential NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

The Associated Press has recognized the league's P.O.Y. on that side of the ball since 1971.

Steelers were so honored four times over the first six seasons after which the designation was made (Joe Greene in 1972 and 1974, Mel Blount in 1975 and Jack Lambert in 1976).

But the franchise has seen just three Defensive Player of the Year Award winners since (Rod Woodson in 1993, James Harrison in 2008 and Troy Polamalu in 2010).

If nothing else, Watt's just-completed season made a compelling argument for him to become the fourth.

The Steelers' 2019 MVP finished with 55 tackles (35 solo), 14.5 sacks, 14 tackles for a loss, 36 quarterback hits, two interceptions, eight passes defensed, eight forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

Watt became the first NFL player since 2008 to have at least 14 sacks, 14 tackles for a loss, 36 quarterback hits, eight forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries in a season.

He's also the only player since 1990 to have at least two interceptions, four fumble recoveries and eight forced fumbles in a season.

Watt ranked in the top five in the NFL in sacks (tied for fourth), quarterback hits (third), forced fumbles (tied for first) and fumble recoveries (tied for second). His six total takeaways tied for fourth in the league.

If recent history is any indication, Watt's credentials compare favorably.

The six players who have won Defensive Player of the Year since 2010 (Watt's brother J.J. won it three times and Aaron Donald won it twice) averaged 81.7 tackles, 13.1 sacks, 20.8 tackles for a loss, 29.4 quarterback hits, 3.7 forced fumbles, 1.7 fumble recoveries and 1.7 interceptions in their Player of the Year seasons (Khalil Mack, Luke Kuechly, Terrell Suggs and Polamalu also won in that span).

Watt surpassed that average in sacks, quarterback hits, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries and interceptions this season.

The Defensive Player of the Year will be revealed during "NFL Honors," the league's two-hour awards show scheduled to air on FOX at 8 p.m., on Feb. 1, the night before the Super Bowl.

Watt's offseason focus, no matter how the voting turns out, will be on doing even more next season much more than it will on all he achieved this season.

"There are so many more plays that I could have made and that are out there and could have affected games, could have affected the outcome," he said before departing the South Side at season's end. "I'm gonna go back and watch every game at some point this offseason and just try to find out what caused me not to finish certain plays.

"The only way to get better is to not set limits."

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