Pittsburgh Steelers second-round draft pick, defensive end Stephon Tuitt, is progressing fast. How fast? Well, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau seems to think that the Notre Dame product will do something that we haven’t seen a rookie defensive end do in Pittsburgh for quite some time, and that’s play a lot.
“He’s definitely going to get a significant amount of playing time,” LeBeau recently told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He’s shown us a lot of athleticism for a big guy, and he’s in great shape. He can run all day.”
During the Steelers mandatory mini camp, defensive line coach John Mitchell took a more guarded approach when talking about Tuitt’s potential playing time in 2014.
“I’m going to play him as much as I can. We’re not going to rush him,” said the Steelers longtime defensive line coach of Tuitt. “I don’t care if he’s a first- or second-round draft choice. When he’s ready to play and we can play him in certain situations I’m going to put him in the ballgame.
“The worst thing you want to happen to a good player who is going to be good down the road, he loses confidence because he goes in the game when he’s not ready to play. We’re not going to rush this kid in there. When he’s ready to play and we feel he can help this team, that’s when we’re going to play him.”
So just how much is a significant amount of playing time in the eyes of LeBeau?
When former Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood was drafted in the first round back in 2009, he only played 225 snaps during his rookie season. He did, however, have starters Brett Keisel and Aaron Smith ahead of him on the depth chart, but the latter of the two was done for the season after the first five games.
Comparatively, current starter Cameron Heyward really didn’t play much more than Hood did during his rookie season, either, as he logged all of 267 regular season snaps.
In the case of Tuitt this year, only newcomer Cam Thomas currently stands in his way of receiving significant snaps as a rookie. If you’ve read this site for a while, you should know by now that my expectations for the former San Diego Chargers defensive lineman aren’t very high.
With starting nose tackle Steve McLendon sitting out the last two practices for unspecified reasons, Thomas has been taking the first-team reps in his absence and as a result, Tuitt’s been running with the first-team.
“It went well,” said Tuitt. “I got to experience something different and get a chance to play with some different players, with the first-team players.”
As to whether or not he’ll receive a significant amount of playing time as a rookie, Tuitt’s not ready to focus on that just yet.
“I think right now what I’ve been doing through camp is working hard and if it’s showing itself, that’s the best thing that I can give to my teammates is just going on the field every day and trying to get better.”
So what kind of feedback did Tuitt receive after working with the first-team the last few days.
“The feedback that I got, I did a pretty good job. I did the assignment that I am supposed to do,” he said.
If that is indeed the case and it continues, then he will indeed see significant playing time in 2014.