Mike Tomlin usually doesn't shower his players with too much public praise. He typically refers to one of his classic lines, "They need no endorsement from me." That wasn't the case, however, when the Steelers head coach was asked about T.J. Watt during his weekly Tuesday press conference.
Specifically, Tomlin was asked if Watt has been a stabilizing force for a defense that has been without several pieces during the season. Tomlin took the opportunity to address that question while also offering the highest praise a coach can give to a player.
"Not only for the defense, but for our football team," Tomlin said. "It's just a lot to learn from him in terms of how he goes about his business, how he works to maximize his talent level. What he does, the level of production.
"Let's be honest, like, T.J.'s the best defensive player on the planet right now. He proves that week in and week out with the plays that he delivers us. I get a bird's eye view of it. I see the lengths that people go through to minimize his impact on the game. I know the type of games that we've been in, close ball games, and how that at times minimizes a guy that plays his position's ability to impact a game. None of those things slow down the train that we all know is coming.
"We're just appreciative of it. Hopefully it's something that the young guys can learn from. It's our job to continue to work to put him position where his talents and his will and his preparedness shows."
It's hard to argue Tomlin's praise of Watt as the league's best defensive player. Watt's 13.5 sacks is tied with Vikings pass rusher Danielle Hunter for the most in the NFL. He is also among the league's leaders in forced fumbles (3) and fumble recoveries (3). Watt also had a key interception that contributed to Pittsburgh's win over the Rams back in Week 7.
Watt's play this season has put him back in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. Here's how Watt's season stacks up with the other top candidates.
|Tackles/Tackles for loss
T.J. Watt, OLB
Myles Garrett, DE
DaRon Bland, CB
It's going to be hard for either Watt or Garrett to beat out Bland for DPOY. The Cowboys' cornerback leads the NFL in interceptions and return yards and on Thanksgiving recorded his NFL record fifth pick-six of the season. It would likely take either Watt or Garrett breaking the single-season sack record (which Watt currently shares with Michael Strahan) for either player to receive serious consideration.
Regardless of who wins that award, Tomlin is convinced that the planet's best defensive player resides on his team. For Watt, who won DPOY in 2021, his biggest goal is a team-oriented one.
"Getting into Year 7, you're just trying to get to the Super Bowl," Watt told CBS Sports . "I've played in three playoff games and haven't won a single one, so that's a big issue. That's probably goal No. 1 is just to get into the playoffs and win a playoff game and just go from there.
"I'm not about the individual goals anymore. I've set myself up nice where I've been having a good career but it doesn't matter if you're not winning games when they matter most. I think that's objective No. 1, for sure."