With Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon currently sidelined with a shoulder injury and defensive end Brett Keisel questionable for the Monday night game against the Houston Texans because of a sprained knee, there’s a good chance that rookie defensive end Stephon Tuitt will make his first career start at Heinz Field. At the very least, Tuitt should see a considerable amount of playing time.
During his weekly talk with the media Thursday, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was asked to talk about the progress that Tuitt has made over the course of the season.
“He’s a young player. He’s got great raw material, tremendous size, he’s got really outstanding athletic ability. He’s going to be a good player, you can write that down,” said LeBeau of the Steelers second-round draft pick. “I think you have to give all these young players a chance to grow. He’s making progress. He’s going to be seeing more action obviously because of the process of necessity, but he’s going to be a good player.”
The Steelers defense will face a Texans team Monday night that is led by running back Arian Foster, who has already rushed for 513 yards and five touchdowns so far this season. With Tuitt likely to see a lot of playing time in the game, LeBeau admitted that he and the rest of the defense will face a huge a challenge in trying to shut him down.
“I think it’s a challenge for all of us,” said LeBeau. “They have a great back and they got a wonderfully solid blocking front. They run the ball and they run it well and we’re going to have to stop that to win the game.”
On top of the Texans already having a good running back in Foster, they also run a lot of outside zone and so far this season the Steelers defense hasn’t showed that they can stop it as evidence in their games against the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. LeBeau admitted Thursday the lack of success his defense has had against the run so far this season and also detailed what needs to happen up front if his unit expects to have different results Monday night against the Texans version of the stretch outside zone.
“Well I don’t think there’s any mystery about that, everybody has got to get his gap and they got to keep up on their feet (and) they can’t get cut,” the Steelers longtime defensive coordinator said. “They do a good job of stretching in the backside and offensive linemen go down low and they cut.
“If one of our guys go down that’s what the stretch implies. They just look for a gap and then they take it north and south. If there’s no gap, there’s no play. They just keep bouncing to the sideline. But you got to have good leverage at the point of attack and you got to have people in their gaps coming down the line, and you can’t have people on the ground. It’s not that difficult.”
Well see Thursday night if Tuitt can keep his feet and help make a difference. LeBeau hopes that the snaps he’s played so far this season and during training camp will help in that area.
“He’s had some snaps and there’s no experience like game experience and playing in the contest. So we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do in there,” he said.