The Pittsburgh Steelers have a long tradition of defensive playmakers. Whether you look back to the Steel Curtain in the 1970s, the Blitzburgh defenses of the 90s or even the dynamic defenses of the early 2000s. Every defense was riddled with playmakers.
But not all playmakers are Defensive Players of the Year. That honor is kept for those who are unique and special. Prior to Thursday night, the Steelers organization has had six players been given the title of Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY). They are...
“Mean” Joe Green (2xs)
After Thursday night’s NFL Honors show, you can add another Steelers player to the list of legends, and that would be none other than All-Pro pass rusher T.J. Watt. After years of being overlooked, and snubbed, Watt claimed his first DPOY crown, but if you think he is done working, you haven’t been paying attention.
“I grew up coming to this awards show, I think five or six times, and never came home with hardware.” Watt recalled after winning the award. “But every time I left more motivated than the time I got here. I promise this only motivates me more.”
As it pertains to motivation, just playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers and trying to live up to the standard set by those before him is certainly motivation enough.
“That’s huge. That’s why I was so honored to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers,” said Watt. “I mean, talk about the legacy and the amount of legends that have walked through those halls. It’s one of those things where if those guys played in that system and were so successful and won awards like this, why can’t we do it too? Why can’t I do it? Seeing those guys play in Pittsburgh let me know that it’s possible. A lot of credit to my teammates, coaches and the upper management as well, Mr. (Art) Rooney (II), for picking me.”
Watt is extremely thankful to everyone who has helped him along the way, and that includes all the teammates he had in 2021 which helped him reach this milestone in his career. But as stated earlier, he isn’t done. No, far from it.
“It’s all about tradition here and to be able to put your footprint in as part of the tradition here is special,” Watt said. “Doing this with such a wonderful group of guys is what it’s all about. To be able to be a part of this franchise hopefully for a long time, this is very special. But I really do have more work to do.”
Watt has continued to improve every year since entering the league in 2017 as the Steelers’ first round draft pick, and there are skeptics who wonder if Watt has shown all he is capable of providing for the defense, but Watt believes he is just entering the prime of his career. A scary thought for offenses who have to prepare for Watt in 2022 and beyond.
“I feel like I’m just about to be entering the prime of my career and that’s why more than ever I just want to continue to find ways to get better at this game,” said Watt. “That’s why I love football so much. There’s always room for improvement and I’m not satisfied. I’d much rather be playing in the Super Bowl this weekend than winning this award for sure.
“To be able to be recognized as the best defensive player in the year is definitely something that I strive to be. I’m not huge on individual goals, but it’s tough for me not to want that when I saw my brother at the height of his career win the award three times and I always just thought to myself, why can’t I do that? I’m just so motivated. I’m very honored to receive this award when there’s so many successful and great players in the National Football League.”
For Watt, other than a league MVP, he has done almost everything an individual can achieve in the NFL.
Defensive Player of the Year
At this point all that remains is the most coveted trophy in all of sports — the Lombardi Trophy. Until that is obtained by Watt, it is unlikely he ever is satisfied. Then again, even if the Steelers won a Super Bowl I’m sure he would suggest he needs to win it again. Never settling isn’t a bad thing.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the start of the new league year and the 2022 NFL Draft.