While individual accolades in the NFL are not nearly as regarded as team championships, when players get acknowledged for their outstanding performances it is always noteworthy. While many Steelers fans believe outside linebacker T.J. Watt should be awarded the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, the likelihood of being named the top defensive player in the entire league is much more difficult if the player is not deemed the best defender in their conference. On Tuesday, it was announced T.J. Watt has been awarded the 101 Awards AFC Defensive Player of the Year for the 2021 season, his second-straight year of winning the award.
Congratulations to @_TJWatt for being selected as the 101 Awards AFC Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year!— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 25, 2022
The award is named due to the “Committee of 101” which is 101 national sports writers who cover the NFL and vote on the awards. Established in 1969, the committee awards an offensive player of the year, defensive player of the year, and coach of the year for each conference. By earning the AFC Defensive Player of the Year for a second time, Watt has put himself in excellent company in regards to the Pittsburgh Steelers. This per Teresa Varley of Steelers.com :
Other Steelers who have won the NFL 101 AFC Defensive Player of the Year Award in the past include 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).
With an NFL leading 22.5 sacks in 2021, Watt also led the NFL with 21 tackles for loss. Adding five forced fumbles, seven passes defensed, and three fumble recoveries in 15 games, T.J. Watt has solidified his candidacy for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year by winning the honor for the AFC yet again.
T.J. Watt also joins his brother in receiving this honor as J.J. Watt was the AFC Defensive Player of the Year on four occasions in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2018.
Although Troy Polamalu won the AFC Defensive Player of the Year In 2010, the most recent player to win one of the awards as a part of the Pittsburgh Steelers other than Watt was Antonio Brown in 2017 as the AFC Offensive Player of the Year. It was Brown‘s second award as he was a co-winner in 2014 with running back Le’Veon Bell. The only other member of the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the AFC Offensive Player of the Year award was Kordell Stewart in 2001.
When it comes to the AFC Coach of the Year, the only time a Steelers head coach was selected was in 1994 when Bill Cowher won the award.
The other winners for 2021 were Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts as AFC Offensive Player of the Year, Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams as NFC Offensive Player of the Year, Micah Parsons of the Dallas Cowboys as NFC Defensive Player of the Year, Mike Vrabel of the Tennessee Titans as AFC Coach of the Year, and Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers as NFC Coach of the Year.
Congratulations to T.J. Watt on being the AFC Defensive Player of the Year, and all of Steelers’ Nation continues to cheer you on for NFL Defensive Player of the Year which will be announced on Thursday, February 10.