If it was up to Ben Roethlisberger, teammate T.J. Watt would soon join Alan Page and Lawrence Taylor as the only defensive players to win league MVP.
Watt, who despite missing two games is the league leader with 16 sacks and 16 tackles for loss, is the clear frontrunner to win Defensive Player of the Year. Roethlisberger, however, feels that Watt should be in the running for league MVP as well.
“T.J. is seriously one of the best players I’ve ever played against, and I’ve played against some really good defensive guys,” Roethlisberger said on Tuesday. “He truly is a special player. I’m glad I’ve haven’t been sacked by him. He is a game-changer and a game-wrecker. I’ve been a part of guys like that — Troy Polamalu — who can change a football game. It doesn’t happen on defense that often. To be a literal game-changer on defense is something completely special.
“He should be recognized more than just [Defensvie Player of the Year]. He should absolutely get MVP votes as well because that’s the type of player that he is.”
Watt would join extremely rare company if he is able to win league MVP. The first 13 league MVP awards went to either quarterbacks or running backs before Page became the first defensive player to win the honor in 1971. In 14 games that season, Page tallied nine sacks, two safeties and three fumble recoveries while also winning Defensive Player of the Year. Page received the fourth of nine consecutive Pro Bowl selections that season in what was a Hall of Fame career with the Vikings and Bears.
With the exception of kicker Mark Moseley in 1982, quarterbacks and running backs continued to win the award until Taylor took home the honor in 1986 while helping lead the Giants to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title. The first player in history to win both Rookie and Defensive Player of the Year in 1981, Taylor led the NFL with 20.5 sacks during his MVP season. A first-ballot Hall of Famer, Taylor is widely regarded as arguably the greatest defensive player in league history.
Since Taylor’s MVP season, quarterbacks have dominated the award. Along with being the first defensive player in 35 years to win the award, Watt would be the second Steelers player to win league MVP and the first since Terry Bradshaw did so in 1978. That season, Bradshaw led the NFL in touchdown passes en route to his first of consecutive Super Bowl MVP performances.
Watt is in line to join Joe Greene (1972 and 1974), Mel Blount (1975), Jack Lambert (1976), Rod Woodson (1993), James Harrison (2008) and Polamalu (2010) as Steelers players who have won Defensive Player of the Year. Speaking of Harrison, Watt is one sack away from breaking his former teammate’s single season-franchise record set in 2008. With five regular season games remaining, Watt is seven sacks away from breaking Michael Strahan’s NFL record for most sacks in a season.
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