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DPOY is an individual award, so the fans shouldn’t be this angry

So. T.J. Watt didn’t win the 2023 Defensive Player of the Year Award on Thursday night, and the Browns’ Myles Garrett did—big deal.

You know who else didn’t win the DPOY a lot of the time? Rod Woodson. You ever see that man’s resume? Woodson made the Pro Bowl 11 times. He was a First-Team All-Pro six times. He was named to the 1990s All-Decade Team. He was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. He was named to the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-time Team. He’s still third all-time in interceptions with 71.

And, of course, he was a First-Ballot Hall of Fame inductee.

Oh yeah, and Woodson was voted the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1993. I didn’t know that, at least not until Wikipedia was invented and informed me of it. I mean, I’m sure I read a blurb about it in the newspaper the day after Woodson received the honor, but I don’t remember a parade. I was just so wrapped up in how good of a player he was for the Steelers and, eventually, for a few other teams. Why hasn’t this man had a statue built outside of Acrisure Stadium? He is a legend and one of the NFL’s greatest players at any position.

Anyway, Mean Joe Greene won DPOY twice (1972 and 1974). Mel Blount won it once (1975). Jack Lambert won it once (1976). Nobody ever talks about those guys winning that award. It never comes up in conversation. Instead, we talk about the Steel Curtain defense. We talk about how Mean Joe changed the Steelers’ culture and how he was absolutely unblockable for the first half of his career. We talk about how Blount helped to change the modern passing game–they named a rule after him. We talk about Lambert’s lack of teeth but not his lack of focus and intensity.

We also talk about Super Bowls and parades.

Speaking of which, did you know Troy Polamalu won the DPOY award in 2010? He did. It even happened in the social media age, yet we don’t talk about it all that much. Instead, we bask in the glow of Polamalu’s career. We discuss his pick-six in the 2008/9 AFC title game at Heinz Field. We talk about that one-handed interception he made the next time Pittsburgh played in that same venue the following season (I was there). What about all of those times he timed it just right and jumped over the line of scrimmage?

We also talk about the Super Bowls and parades. Remember the time(s) Troy jumped in the crowd?

The only Defensive Player of the Year Award that ever truly got “over” was James Harrison’s in 2008. Maybe that was because of his story. Harrison didn’t have the pre-draft measurables that coaches and scouts desired in an outside linebacker. He was undersized. He wasn’t very fast. He was cut several times before finally making the Steelers roster as a special teams player. When he got his chance to start in 2007, he took advantage of it. He got every ounce of talent out of his undersized body. Nothing encapsulated that more than when he intercepted a Kurt Warner pass and somehow managed to rumble 100 yards before collapsing in the end zone.

That happened in Super Bowl XLIII. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

Harrison, who finished his career with 84.5 quarterback sacks, is a borderline Hall of Famer. He might get in someday. Then again, he might not. Needless to say, a Defensive Player of the Year Award will boost his resume.

Here’s the thing about Watt: He doesn’t need anything to boost his resume. He came into the NFL as a first-round draft pick. He had the measurables. He had the athleticism. And much like Harrison, he had a work ethic. Maybe that’s why he was able to take his game to a level that’s sure to make him a First-Ballot Hall of Fame inductee when his career is over.  Watt has 96.5 sacks in seven seasons, and that’s just the start of his impressive career stat line.

If he can manage to bend around Father Time, Watt will likely challenge the all-time sack record of 200. Even if he doesn’t get there, he’ll surely be in the same neighborhood.

Sharing real estate with Bruce Smith, Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor? Not bad.

Actually, it’s damn good. Yes, I know Watt led the NFL in sacks in 2023 with 19–the third time that’s happened in his career. Yes, I understand that Garrett, who didn’t lead the NFL in any category in 2023 except PFF stats, was handed the award in much the same way Matt Damon was named Sexiest Man Alive in 2007–people just really wanted him to win it. Damon may not have been the sexiest man alive in 2007, but I’m sure many people found him sexy. And while Garrett may not have had the best defensive stats in 2023, he was still a damn-fine player.

Garrett had 14 sacks in 2023, and he has 88.5 for his career.

That’s a pretty dominant defender.

Maybe Watt should have won it, but who cares?

Some Steelers fans were so mad on Thursday night, that they vowed to take a break from Twitter/X for a while. Why? How can an individual award be so personal to anyone besides the individual who did or did not win it? Watt, who reportedly has a grufness that approaches the likes of Lambert and Harrison, did not attend the awards ceremony on Thursday after he found out he wouldn’t be winning DPOY. Instead, he cryptically Tweeted: “Nothing I’m not used to” and then went sight-seeing with his wife.

That’s Watt, but why you?

Would your life be any better today had Watt won the DPOY for a second time? If so, that’s a little questionable. To quote Chris Rock: “Everyday, I look in my mailbox for my O.J. prize, nuttin’!”

As a Steelers fan, I’m just glad they have Watt. Do you think Clooney and Pitt were angry that Damon won SMA in 2007? No. They were probably just glad that they, too, were symmetrical. I don’t care about awards. I care about sacks. I care about game-changing plays. Utlimately, I care about winning in the postseason. Hopefully, Watt can eventually get around to helping Pittsburgh do that.

If Watt can ever help the Steelers win a championship, well, that would be a prize worth celebrating.


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