Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt appears to be skipping Thursday night’s NFL Honors ceremony after apparently getting word that he will not be winning the 2023 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award, as voted on by the Associated Press.
While other attendees, including Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, were appearing on the red carpet before the 9 p.m. Eastern awards show, Watt posted a picture of his wife, Dani, with the caption “Playing Hooky” on Instagram.
Watt later Tweeted, “Nothing that I’m not used to,” in light of the apparent snub.
Nothing I’m not used to.
— TJ Watt (@_TJWatt) February 9, 2024
Watt, who won the award in 2021, was the most statistically dominant defensive player in the NFL 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 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.
Despite Watt’s statistical prowess, Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett has been considered the favorite to win the award.
Watt was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year by the 101 Committee, and won recent anonymous player and fan votes for the award. But Garrett won the Pro Football Writers version of the award and is expected to take the hardware again on Thursday night thanks to his prowess in metrics of questionable import.
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.
Watt also dropped into coverage far more than Garrett, breaking up eight passes and snagging an interception that he returned inside the 10-yard line to set up a Steelers touchdown. Garrett had three passes defended.
Where Garrett excelled was in advanced pass-rush metics peddled by Pro Football Focus and others. PFF graded Garrett as the best edge rusher in the league at 93.6. Watt was fifth at 91.9, behind Nick Bosa of the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons and Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby.
Most of that grade was attributable to Garrett’s prowess in pass rush win rate, a metric that attempts to calculate how frequently a defensive player beats his opposite number, regardless of whether that makes an impact on the play at hand. Garrett was graded as having a 27.3% win rate, the highest in the league. He was also assigned 60 hurries compared to 47 for Watt.