Steelers’ TJ Watt Wins NFL Award for 2nd Time This Season

Stephon Tuitt and TJ Watt

Michael Reaves/Getty Images Stephon Tuitt and T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrate a sack against the Jacksonville Jaguars on November 22, 2020.

“Watt a month for T.J.,” headlined the Pittsburgh Steelers official web site on Friday morning, delivering the news that outside linebacker T.J. Watt won AFC Defensive Player of the Month for November. It’s the second time he has won Defensive Player of the Month honors this year, as he also earned the award for his play in September.

Watt had 18 tackles (13 solo), plus five-and-a-half sacks, 17 quarterback hits, and three passes defensed during five games that the Steelers played in November (or would have played in November, had the Baltimore Ravens game not been delayed three times).

Watt had two games with multiple sacks during the games in question, including two each in showdowns against AFC North rivals Cincinnati and Baltimore. After the Bengals game, Watt said he simply wanted to welcome Bengals rookie QB Joe Burrow to the NFL in “the appropriate way.”

Earlier this year, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin indicated that he expected Watt to continue to get better, even after his exceptionally strong start to the 2020 season.

“I think he’s still writing [his] story,” said Tomlin at the time. “He was pretty awesome a year ago, to be quite honest with you. I know he has an intention of being continually better, so he’s still writing that story. His talents are just a part of the equation. His hyper-focus, his attention to detail, his awareness, I think all add up to big playmaking ability and splash plays for us.”

T.J. Watt’s 2020 Season

Watt, the team’s first-round pick in 2017 NFL Draft (30th overall, Wisconsin), currently leads the NFL with 11 sacks, plus a whopping 33 quarterback hits and 17 tackles for a loss. He also has 39 tackles (30 solo), as well as six passes defensed and an interception, the latter of which occurred in the season-opener against the New York Giants.

Mike Tomlin: “Guys Like T.J. Don’t Depend on Anyone”

Some NFL observers have wondered whether Watt will be able to maintain his level of play now that right outside linebacker Bud Dupree is on injured reserve with a season-ending knee injury.

Mike Tomlin squelched that idea during his virtual press conference on Thursday, saying, “I don’t think T.J. Watt gets assistance from anyone in terms of his quality of his play. T.J. makes his plays. I don’t think that’s going to be an issue at all. Guys like T.J. don’t depend on anyone.”

Watt has now won AFC Defensive Player of the Month three times in his career, receiving the award once in 2019 as well.

But by winning the honor twice this season, Watt is building a stronger and stronger case for Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY).

He’s also a big part of the reason why the Steelers are poised to tie the NFL record for most consecutive games with at least one sack (69), which can be accomplished on Monday versus Washington. That record was set between 1999 and 2003 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Perhaps not coincidentally, Tomlin was on Tampa Bay’s coaching staff during part of that run, as he served as the Bucs’ defensive backs coach between 2001 and 2005.

With 41 sacks thus far this season, the Steelers are also trending toward setting a new franchise record for most consecutive seasons with 50+ sacks (four). No NFL team has recorded 50 or more sacks in four straight seasons since the 1980s.

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