The Pittsburgh Steelers gave rookie defensive end Stephon Tuitt eleven snaps worth of playing time Sunday in their win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and for the Notre Dame product represented himself well for the most part.
Tuitt’s first snap on defense came at the tail end of the Jaguars first offensive possession and while his first play was uneventful, the push that got on the very next snap helped result in a sack of Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles on second down.
I have three animated gifs of that play below and you can see the leg power used by Tuiit in the two sideline field level views.
In the end zone view, you can see Tuitt attack the B gap initially at the snap. With Jaguars right tackle Austin Pasztor outside of him, Tuitt is penetrating the gap enough that Bortles feels his pressure. The young quarterback tries to escape but outside linebacker Jason Worilds, who is one-on-one with fullback Will Taʻufoʻou, is there. If that’s not enough, Tuitt still manages to swim back outside of an off balanced Pasztor to get in on the sack.
Tuitt kept his pads under Pasztor’s during this play and while it’s hard to see, he used his hands extremely well. He controlled the right tackle right from the start and that’s very encouraging.
Tuitt wasn’t officially credited with a half sack on the play, but I won’t be surprised if the Steelers do.
With 3:35 left in the third quarter, Tuitt again made somewhat of an impact on a third down play. This time the Steelers are in their nickel defense and Tuitt is lined up on the outside shoulder of Jaguars right guard Brandon Linder. You should be able to see in the gif below that Tuitt gets a great jump right at the snap and he attacks the outside shoulder of Linder. He starts driving the Jaguars right guard back and perhaps that forced Bortles to throw a bit high and outside. Regardless, it’s the kind of quick and deep pressure that you like to see even though it won’t show up in the stats.
The only real negative that I saw out of Tuitt Sunday was a very minor one. Late in the second quarter he was cut low by the Jaguars right guard and was unable to keep his footing. While it wouldn’t have made a difference on this particular play, he will want to try to protect his legs better in the future by quickly identifying a cut attempt.
I suspect the Steelers coaching staff is starting to gain confidence in Tuitt and as a result, I think we’ll start seeing him get at least ten or more snaps a game moving forward. With Cam Thomas playing just like we thought he would, the team might as well start trying to give Tuitt some of his snaps and especially on passing downs late in drives when either Brett Keisel or Cameron Heyward need a few plays off.