We got to see more of Pittsburgh Steelers rookie defensive end Stephon Tuitt last week against the Cleveland Browns than we had in any other game this season when he logged a season-high 18 snaps. That included two snaps in a four-man front at the goal line.
Admittedly, he delivered mixed results with that playing time. He showed off his motor, but he also made his rookie mistakes.
The Steelers reportedly plan to start him in order to replace the left defensive end spot temporarily vacated with Cam Thomas moving to nose tackle due to injury. In other words, they need him to play better, and more consistently.
We saw that hustle early in the second quarter when Jordan Cameron slipped behind the defense and caught a long ball for a double explosive play. While it was Brett Keisel who ultimately chugged down the field to push him out of bounds, Tuitt, who was further away, got on his horse and raced down the field too.
Midway through that quarter, Brian Hoyer pitched the ball to Isaiah Crowell on a running play, but the back let it bounced off of him and onto the ground. After recovering the ball, he was met by Tuitt, who had beaten the right guard, after picking up just a yard on the broken play.
Later on the drive, Tuitt was duped a bit on a cutback run that went off the right side for six yards. While the right tackle had a bit of his arm, the fact that the Browns had two tight ends in a heavy run look to his side should have clued him in to a possible cutback, whether by design or not. He didn’t anticipate it, and allowed the back to get around the corner.
Early in the third quarter, the rookie showed a bit more discipline against the run by helping funnel the running back to his playmakers behind him. He was able to get some penetration into the right guard, blocking off access points to the right and forcing the running back to take the inside route as a result, which netted two yards.
Then there was the goal line stand early in the fourth quarter, in which the Steelers played four defensive linemen in front of five linebackers on first and goal from the two. Tuitt lined up as the left defensive end, and the play came his way.
He was buried by a double team, flushed well to the play’s left and knocked to the ground. But he deserves credit for getting to his knees and continuing to help out on the tackle. For naught, however, because the back went off his left side into the end zone on the next play anyway.