Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year by the 101 Committee on Tuesday over other players like Myles Garrett. Watt has won the same award three times: in 2020, in 2021, and now, in 2023.
Watt joins rare company with his brother J.J., Reggie White, Ray Lewis, Aaron Donald, and Bruce Smith as the only players to win three or more awards in their respective conferences. He has already earned a Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro nod so far this season.
Watt had 19 sacks this season and set a modern NFL record as the first player to lead the league in sacks for a third time since it became an official statistic back in the early 1980s. Deacon Jones of the Los Angeles Rams unofficially led the league in sacks five times the 1960s.
Watt recorded two sacks in the Steelers’ 17-10 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday to increase his total to 19. He had been tied with Trey Hendrickson of the Cincinnati Bengals at 17 heading into Week 18. Hendrickson recorded a half-sack in the Bengals’ final-week win over the Cleveland Browns.
Watt also led the NFL in sacks in 2020 and 2021, when he tied the all-time single-season sack records, drawing even with Michael Strahan’s mark of 22.5.
This season, Watt’s statistical dominance went beyond sacks, as he also recorded 36 quarterback hits, 19 tackles for loss, eight passes defended, four forced fumbles, three fumbles recovered, one interception and one defensive touchdown, a game-sealing fumble return against the Browns.