T.J. Watt has yet to win a NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, even though he's nearly a lock to take home the hardware in 2021. Watt has been dominant this season for a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that needs him to perform every week.
A difference-maker when he's on the field, Watt leads the NFL with 16 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. He's tied for second in the NFL in quarterback hits (26), tied for third in forced fumbles (four) -- all while playing just 10 regular season games (missed two games with hip and knee injuries).
Watt's performance in 2021 isn't knew, as the Steelers' All-Pro linebacker improves every season. Arguably considered the best defensive player in the game, Watt's performance over the last four years has him in the conversation with Reggie White for best start for a pass rusher -- ever.
As Watt continues to rewrite the record books, this week's "By The Numbers" takes a deep dive into Watt's last three seasons, his defensive player of the year case, and where he stands compared to the rest of the league and the all-time greats.
Most sacks -- NFL players (since 2019)
- T.J. Watt (Steelers) -- 45.5
- Myles Garrett (Browns) -- 36.0
- Shaquil Barrett (Buccaneers) -- 35.0
- Aaron Donald (Rams) -- 33.0
- Trey Hendrickson (Saints/Bengals) -- 29.5
Most QB hits -- NFL players (since 2019)
- T.J. Watt (Steelers) -- 104
- Matt Judon (Ravens/Patriots) -- 77
- Joey Bosa (Chargers) -- 73
- Aaron Donald (Rams) -- 72
- Shaquil Barrett (Buccaneers) -- 70
Most tackles for loss -- NFL players (since 2019)
- T.J. Watt (Steelers) -- 53
- Aaron Donald (Rams) -- 43
- Shaquil Barrett (Buccaneers) -- 38
- Joey Bosa (Chargers) -- 37
- Maxx Crosby (Raiders) -- 37
Most forced fumbles -- NFL players (since 2019)
- T.J. Watt (Steelers) -- 14
- Marlon Humphrey (Ravens) -- 11
- Chandler Jones (Cardinals) -- 11
- Shaquil Barrett (Buccaneers) -- 11
- Yannick Ngakoue (Jaguars/Vikings/Ravens/Raiders) -- 10
- Darius Leonard (Colts) -- 10
Watt's 2021 season has a few highlights attached as he's vying for league defensive player of the year honors. Here are his numerous accomplishments throughout the year. His 2021 season is just a microcosm of how dominant Watt has been since 2019.
- Leads the NFL in sacks (16.0) and tackles for loss (16).
- Second in the NFL in quarterback hits (26), third in forced fumbles (four) and tied for third in fumble recoveries (two).
- Recorded six tackles, six quarterback hits (tied career high), 3.5 sacks (career-high), three tackles for loss and one forced fumble in Sunday's victory over the Ravens.
- Had five tackles, two for loss, two quarterback hits and a sack in a Week 10 tie against the Lions.
- Recorded seven tackles, three for loss, three quarterback hits, three sacks and one pass defensed in a Week 9 win over the Bears.
- Had six tackles, three quarterback hits, 1.5 sacks, one tackle for loss and one fumble recovery against the Browns in Week 8.
- Finished with seven tackles, three tackles for loss, three passes defensed, two sacks, two quarterback hits and one forced fumble in a Week 6 overtime win over the Seahawks. He became the first NFL player to have two or more sacks and a forced fumble in overtime since sacks were first recorded in 1982.
- Watt also became the second player in the NFL to register at least three tackles for loss, three passes defensed, two sacks and one forced fumble in the same game since 2005 (Week 6 vs. Seahawks).
Watt has established himself as the best pass rusher in the league -- and in the NFL over the last three years. How does he stack up with the all-time greats? He's entering the conversation with Reggie White for the best start for a pass rusher ever.
Single game sack leaders in NFL history (minimum 70 games started)
- T.J. Watt (Steelers) -- 0.91
- Reggie White (Eagles) -- 0.85
- Chandler Jones (Patriots/Cardinals) -- 0.79
- DeMarcus Ware (Cowboys) -- 0.78
- Von Miller (Broncos) -- 0.76
- Aaron Donald (Rams) -- 0.76
- J.J. Watt (Texans) -- 0.76
Most sacks in NFL history (first 72 games)
- Reggie White (Eagles) -- 80.0
- T.J. Watt (Steelers) -- 65.5
- J.J. Watt (Texans) -- 65.5
- Derrick Thomas (Chiefs) -- 63.0
- Von Miller (Broncos) -- 60.0
Most forced fumbles in NFL history (first 72 games)
- Dwight Freeney (Colts) -- 23
- T.J. Watt (Steelers) -- 21
- Robert Mathis (Colts) -- 21
- DeMarcus Ware (Cowboys) -- 19
- Leonard Little (Rams) -- 19
- Forced fumbles became an official statistic in 1999
Most quarterback hits in NFL history (first 72 games)
- J.J. Watt (Texans) -- 188
- T.J. Watt (Steelers) -- 141
- Aaron Donald (Rams) -- 133
- Von Miller (Broncos) -- 129
- Joey Bosa (Chargers) -- 122
Most seasons with 13+ sacks in NFL history
- Reggie White (Eagles/Packers) -- 9
- Bruce Smith (Bills) -- 7
- Kevin Greene (Rams/Steelers/Panthers) -- 5
- T.J. Watt (Steelers) -- 4
- Nine others tied with 4
Players with four consecutive 13+ sack seasons in NFL history
- Reggie White (1985-1988, 1990-1993)
- T.J. Watt (2018-2021)
Watt continues to join the all-time greats with some of his impressive pass rushing marks. He is the third player in NFL history with at least 14.5 sacks in three consecutive seasons, joining White (1986-1988) and Jared Allen (2007-2009). Watt's 65.5 career sacks are the most by a linebacker over his first 72 career regular-season games in NFL history -- and the most by a Steelers player in his first five seasons.
Watt has the most sacks (65.5) and quarterback hits (141) by a linebacker in his first 72 games. His 65.5 sacks are the fourth-most by any player in NFL history through five seasons (only White, J.J. Watt, and Derrick Thomas are higher) and Watt is just 15 sacks behind James Harrison for the most sacks in Steelers franchise history (fifth on franchise sack list).
Watt's 76 tackles for loss are tied for the third-most by a linebacker over his first 72 career regular season games in NFL history -- and fifth on the all-time list. His 21 career forced fumbles are tied for first by a linebacker over his first 72 career regular season games.
Just 27 years old, Watt hasn't even hit the prime of his career. The best is yet to come for the Steelers' star as he continues to emerge as one of the greatest pass rushers of all time. Watt still has a long way to go, but he's in the conversation of ranking amongst the all-time greats with the impressive start to his career.