The NFL Honors ceremony wasn’t without controversy on Saturday night. In perhaps the most shocking moment of the program, Rams’ defensive tackle Aaron Donald received the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year award over Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt.
The 26-year-old Pittsburgh edge rusher took the snub personally after an incredible season. Watt led league with 15 sacks and 23 tackles-for-loss and proved himself to be a reliable defender in coverage, with seven pass break-ups. He anchored a stout Steelers defense, helping to carry the AFC North champs to the No. 3 seed in the postseason.
Meanwhile, Donald continued his already legendary career, racking up 13.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. The 29-year-old defensive tackle earned his third Defensive Player of the Year award, while facing double and triple teams all season long.
Although Donald and Watt seem equally deserving of the award, Steelers teammates, and Watt’s own brother, J.J., raced to the defense of the Pittsburgh linebacker. Two-time All Pro cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick called the award decision “highway robbery” after the announcement.
“He earned that,” Fitzpatrick said of Watt via his Instagram story.
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) February 7, 2021
Fitzpatrick echoed the thoughts of Steelers fans and Watt supporters everywhere. Although Donald’s season was strong, the Steelers 26-year-old outpaced him in nearly every statistical category. If that wasn’t good enough to get the job done, it’s unclear what else Watt was supposed to do.
The Pittsburgh linebacker did receive the Deacon Jones Award, which annually goes to the NFL’s sack leader. However, the league’s most coveted defensive award escaped him.
With another year under his belt and now another motivating factor, Watt seems poised for a huge year in 2021.