Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s recovery at age 38 from elbow surgery has been nothing short of remarkable, with Roethlisberger leading the Pittsburgh offense to an 11-1 start to the 2020 season and into Super Bowl contention once again after tearing three tendons in his throwing elbow in 2019.
The turnaround has many talking about Roethlisberger as a prime candidate to win the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award, but he has stiff competition that got even tougher on Monday night.
Washington quarterback Alex Smith is back on the field this season after an even more horrific injury than Roethlisberger’s. Smith nearly lost his right leg after suffering a compound fracture.
Smith has resurrected Washington’s seasons since returning to action. He’s started the team’s last four games, the last three of which have been wins, including Monday’s upset of the previously unbeaten Steelers.
In the eight games without Smith as a starter, Washington was 2-6. Since he’s returned to the top spot, the team is 3-1.
It’s not clear how close the race is between the veteran quarterbacks, as the award is voted on by an Associated Press panel at the end of the season. But betting markets have shown Smith as the current favorite, and his head-to-head win over Roethlisberger on Monday bettered his odds.
Smith entered the week as a 1/15 favorite, according to BetOnline.ag, with Roethlisberger at 7/1 and the only other player listed on the board. After the Washington win, Smith’s odds shortened to 1/50, while Roethlisberger’s lengthened to 12/1.
Aaron Donald Beats Out T.J. Watt for PFWA NFL Defensive Player of the Year
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.
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.
Steelers CB Mike Hilton Named AFC Defensive Player of the Week
The recognition continues to pile up for the Steelers defense this season, this time with corner Mike Hilton earning AFC efensive Player of the Week honors.
Hilton had a key impact in his team’s 28-24 comeback win over the Colts, especially in the second half. On the corresponding drive right after the Steelers claimed their first lead of the game, Hilton intercepted Philip Rivers at the Pittsburgh 12-yard-line, derailing Indianapolis’ best drive of the second half.
This, while maybe the most critical, was not Hilton’s only big play of the game. Hilton recovered a fumble early in the second quarter. The turnover led to James Conner’s 1-yard touchdown run, that served as the Steelers only score of the first half.
The victory gave the Steelers an award as a team – the AFC North Division title. Hilton spoke after the game about what being part of an NFL division champion again means to him.
Overall, the veteran corner has recorded 40 solo tackles, 3 sacks and 3 interceptions on the season. This marks the second time in his career Hilton has been named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week, previously doing so in Week 16 of the 2017 season. Hilton now joins Ike Taylor (2) and Rod Woodson (4) as the only cornerbacks to win the the honor multiple times with the Steelers.