Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt won the Defensive Player of the Year vote in a poll among 35 anonymous players conducted by Greg Auman of Fox Sports. Watt received six votes, ahead of Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland with 5.5. Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett and Cowboys edge rusher Micah Parsons received 3.5 votes and three votes, respectively.
Others receiving votes included Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby, Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa, Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr., Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton, Falcons safety Jessie Bates, Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith, Jaguars edge rusher Josh Allen, and Lions edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson.
The argument throughout the season was often between Parsons, Garrett, and Watt. Garrett excelled in pass-rush metics such as Pass Rush Win rate and pressure rates. And that’s what has earned Garrett the award in most places , though Watt put up better numbers in pretty much every traditional statistical category. Watt led the NFL with 19 sacks, compared to Garrett’s 14. Watt maintained a consistent statistical advantage across the board in those stats when compared to his AFC North rival.
Watt had 68 tackles, compared to Garrett’s 42. Watt had 19 tackles for loss compared to Garrett’s 17. Watt had 36 quarterback hits compare to 30 for Garrett. Each had four forced fumbles, but Watt had three recoveries compared to Garrett’s one. Watt also returned one of those fumbles for the only defensive touchdown of the season between the two players, which happened to be the game-sealing play in the Week 2 game between the Steelers and Browns at Acrisure Stadium.
The five finalists for AP Defensive Player of the Year are Watt, Garrett, Crosby, Bland, and Parsons. Watt will find out if he will win the award at the NFL Honors on February 8th. Those votes were already compiled without playoff statistics taken into account.