Watt wins AFC Defensive Player of the Year

Linebacker T.J. Watt had another season that has many talking about him being the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, especially after finishing the regular season as the NFL's leader in sacks with 15.

While that award won't be handed out until the night before the Super Bowl, he received another huge honor on Thursday.

Watt was named the 101 Awards AFC Defensive Player of the Year. The award is chosen by a national selection committee that includes 101 national media that cover the NFL. This award show will be streamed virtually this year on Saturday, March 6. Watt's older brother, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, won the award four times and they became the only siblings to win player of the year honors in the 51-year history of the awards.

Watt, who was voted the Steelers MVP for the second straight year, is the third player in the NFL to record at least 15 sacks, 23 tackles for loss and 40 quarterback hits in the last 15 seasons.

"T.J. is visiting from another planet, to be quite honest with you," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "He has freakishly unique talent coupled with freakishly unique work habits and mindset, and it produces what you guys witness every week, which in my opinion, is Defensive Player of the Year quality."

Watt, who was voted to the Pro Bowl for the second time, led the NFL in sacks with a career-high 15, quarterback hits with 41 and tackles for a loss with 23, while adding 53 tackles, 43 of them solo stops, seven pass defenses, two forced fumbles and an interception.

"T.J. is just one of a kind," said fellow linebacker Bud Dupree. "You see it each and every week. Week in and week out. He is an animal. He is going to come in every day and prepare like it's the Super Bowl each and every day. He is going to want to do extra work after practice, see different stuff on film with the coaches, maybe pick a couple of people on the team's brain, what they saw during the week that we didn't get a chance to see. He is always prepared and that is why he plays the way he does."

Watt, the team's No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, is the first player in Steelers history with 14 plus sacks in multiple seasons, doing so in 2019 and 2020.

Watt was solid all season, being named AFC Defensive Player of the Month twice, in September and November.

He was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his Week 2 performance against the Denver Broncos. Watt had 2.5 sacks for a loss of 20 yards, four quarterback hits and four tackles. All of the sacks were against Jeff Driskel, who came in after Drew Lock left the game injured.

He was then named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for September after dominating opposing offenses in three straight games. Watt had three and a half sacks, 10 quarterback hits, nine tackles, three tackles for a loss, two pass defenses and an interception for the month.

Watt was also named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for November, which included games in Weeks 8-12, a stretch where the Steelers went 5-0, including three AFC North wins, two over the Baltimore Ravens and one over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Watt had 19 tackles, including 13 solo stops, five and a half sacks, 17 quarterback hits, and three pass defenses in November. He had two games with multiple sacks during the five-game stretch, including the Bengals and Ravens (Week 12) games when he had two each.

Watt joins an illustrious list of former Steelers who won the AFC Defensive Player of the Year Award in the past, including Troy Polamalu (2010), James Harrison (2008), Carnell Lake (1997), Greg Lloyd (1994), Rod Woodson (1993), Jack Lambert (1976), Mel Blount (1975), and Joe Greene (1972, 74).

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