Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald has been named the Pro Football Writers of America 2020 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Donald won the award for the third time in the last four seasons, joining J.J. Watt as the only player to win the award, which has been given out annually since 1992, three times.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was named PFWA NFL Most Valuable Player. Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry was named PFWA Offensive Player of the Year.
Donald edged Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who led the NFL in sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hits and has been considered the favorite to win he Associated Press version of the award.
Donald finished the regular season with 13.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 27 quarterback hits and 45 tackles, while finishing with an NFL-high approximate value of 22, per Pro Football Reference.
He has also been named to a 2020 Associated Press All-Pro, to the 2020 PFWA All-NFL team and to the 2021 Pro Bowl roster.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger Received NFL Comeback Player of the Year Vote
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger came in second to Washington quarterback Alex Smith in the NFL Comeback Player of the Year voting, but received just one vote as Smith ran away with the award.
Smith took home 49 of the 50 votes, as he returned from a compound leg fracture suffered in the 2018 season that nearly cost him his leg.
Not only did Smith return to the field this season after missing all of 2019 after his injury became infected, he performed well, leading Washington to a 5-1 record in games he started. Smith threw for 1,582 yards and six touchdowns while recording a 78.5 passer rating.
Roethlisberger also returned in 2020 from injury, after suffering an elbow injury in the second game of the Steelers’ 2019 season that required extensive surgery.
Roethlisberger returned to lead the Steelers to a division title and a 12-4 record and threw for 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns in 15 games.
Rams DT Aaron Donald Beats Out Steelers OLB T.J. Watt for AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald has been named the Associated Press 2020 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, beating out Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt and Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavier Howard.
Donald won the award for the third time in the last four seasons, joining J.J. Watt and Lawrence Taylor as the only players to win the award, which has been given out annually since 1971, three times.
The 26 year-old Watt, in his fourth season out of Wisconsin, finished the 2020 season with the NFL lead in sacks (15), tackles for loss (26) and quarterback hits (41), and did so despite sitting out the regular season finale at Cleveland on Sunday. His 15 sacks were one shy of the team single-season record.
Donald received 27 votes, Watt 20 and Howard three.
— TJ Watt (@_TJWatt) February 7, 2021
Watt, was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year by FOX Sports and the committee of 101. Watt was also named first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press and was one of five Steelers that were selected for the 2021 Pro Bowl. He was named Steelers MVP for the second straight season.
Watt, who was voted the Steelers’ team MVP for the second straight season, also had an interception, two forced fumbles and seven passes defended this season while racking up 53 tackles, and remains the odds-on favorite to become the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the first time in his career.
Watt finished tied for third in NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2019 with Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaw Barrett. Watt led the league with eight forced fumbles and recorded 14.5 sacks, but New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore ultimately took home the honor.
Donald and Watt’s brother J.J. Watt are also multi-time recipients of the award. J.J. Watt won in 2012, 2014 and 2015. New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore won in the 2019.
T.J. Watt Remains Defensive Player of Year Favorite Entering Final Week
T.J. Watt seems unlikely to play in Sunday’s Steelers season finale against the Cleveland Browns, but he remains the favorite to become the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year after this season.
Watt did not practice all week, along with starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and center Maurkice Pouncey. The Steelers have already announced that Roethlisberger will not play against the Browns and the Post-Gazette has reported that Pouncey and Watt will join him on the sidelines in Cleveland.
Watt, the Steelers’ MVP for the second straight season, leads the NFL in sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback hits entering the final week of the season, and his hold on at least two of those marks seems fairly secure.
It’s on that resume that SportsBetting.com lists Watt as the favorite to win Defensive Player of the Week entering the final week of the regular season. Watt is a 1/2 favorite, following by two-time winner Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams at 2/1. Xavier Howard (8/1) and Myles Garrett (20/1) remain on the board as long shots.
The award has been given by the Associated Press to the top defensive player in the league since 1971. The Steelers have won the award seven times before, the most of any other franchise, and have done so with six different winners, most recently Troy Polamalu. Mel Blount, James Harrison, Jack Lambert and Rod Woodson also each won the award once while Joe Greene is one of seven two-time winners.
Donald and Watt’s brother J.J. Watt are also multi-time recipients of the award. J.J. Watt won in 2012, 2014 and 2015. Donald won in 2017 and 2018. New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore won in the 2019.