Steelers’ Mike Tomlin Makes Case for TJ Watt as DPOY

TJ Watt

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a tackle for loss against the Cincinnati Bengals on December 21, 2020.

According to the 2020 NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds tracker published by Sports Betting Dime (SBD), Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt is currently “the odds-on favorite to win NFL DPOY over [Los Angeles Rams star] Aaron Donald and the rest of the field.”

But two weeks ago, SBD had Donald as the favorite, so one suspects it’s going to be a close call.

As such, it’s notable that when Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about what sets T.J. Watt apart from the other defensive players in the league, he took the opportunity to leave NFL observers with a lasting impression—an otherworldly quote, if you will.

“T.J. is visiting from another planet,” said Tomlin on Tuesday. “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.”

Not surprisingly, the team’s social media department immediately ran with that idea, making reference to Steven Spielberg’s E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial.

The Case For T.J. Watt (in Numbers)

Of course, Watt doesn’t really need a memorable ad campaign, if you will. His numbers are indeed, uh, out of this world.

Tackles: 53 (43 solo)
TFL: 23
QB Hits: 41
Passes Defensed: 7
Forced Fumbles: 2
Interceptions: 1
Sacks: 15

With 15 sacks, he has already set a new career high, and that’s as many sacks as the entire Tennessee Titans team.

His next closest competitor, it seems, is Donald, a defensive lineman who won Defensive Player of the Year in both 2017 and 2018. Donald has produced the following numbers in 2020:

Tackles: 41 (24 solo)
TFL: 12
QB Hits: 26
Passes Defensed: 1
Forced Fumbles: 4
Interceptions: 0
Sacks: 13.5

It probably doesn’t help Donald that the Rams are just 9-6 (compared to the 12-3 Steelers) and a loss to Arizona coupled with a Chicago win over Green Bay would leave the Rams out of the playoffs entirely.

The Steelers Defense Set Sack Records in 2020

Meanwhile, T.J. Watt has helped the Steelers defense set some remarkable—and historic—records this season.

For one, he helped his team break the NFL record for most consecutive games with at least one sack. It’s a record that stands at 72 games—and counting.

He has also been the primary reason the Steelers were able to set a new franchise record with four consecutive seasons of 50-plus sacks. That’s an achievement not seen in the NFL since the 1980s, and in 2021 the Steelers will have the opportunity to tie the NFL record for most consecutive 50-plus sack seasons (five). That mark was established by three teams—Washington, Dallas and Buffalo—between 1983-87.

Never mind that Watt has already been named to the 2021 Pro Bowl and twice been named AFC Defensive Player of the Month this season, in both September and November.

In a nutshell, he has taken his game to the next level, as he promised back in August when he said he ‘wanted to be a game wrecker.’

If Watt wins Defensive Player of the Year he will be the first Steelers player to do it since Troy Polamalu in 2010.

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