Despite Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau saying after the draft that Stephon Tuitt was a young player that was going to play a lot of snaps as a rookie, he is currently only on pace for 140 snaps this year.
Through the first four games, the Steelers’ second-round defensive end has played just 35 snaps, including less than five this past Sunday.
He saw a season-high 15 snaps against the Baltimore Ravens in a game in which the Steelers defense was winded to the point of vomiting on the field as a result of Baltimore’s up-tempo hurry up offensive attack.
He also logged nine snaps apiece during the season opener and in the victory over the Carolina Panthers.
In all, he has played only 13 percent of the team’s 271 snaps thus far. But his playing time is of no concern to him as he navigates the learning curve all rookies face.
Of course, it’s also worth keeping in mind that LeBeau’s comments came back in May, when Cameron Heyward was the only defensive end on the roster that had played more than two snaps for the Steelers.
As though it could have gone unnoticed, the Steelers re-signed veteran defensive end Brett Keisel in August, and he has been an integral part of the defensive rotation since then, logging nearly two-thirds of the team’s snaps through the first quarter of the season.
Keisel has averaged 42.5 snaps per game, logging a total of 170 snaps thus far, with a season-low coming against the Panthers, when he played only 30 snaps when the Steelers stayed primarily in their base defense through the first three quarters.
It’s quite honestly not entirely clear when and where Tuitt will play, because Cam Thomas, starting at left defensive end—the presumed spot Tuitt will eventually inherit—has logged 164 snaps himself, though a modest minority of those snaps have come at nose tackle in place of Steve McLendon in stretches.
Still, the rookie isn’t frustrated with his situation by any means, because he believes that he will get his playing time when he knows the defense, and he believes that time might be soon as his understanding of the plays improve.
For his part, he told reporters yesterday that he feels he was in the right position using the right technique on “90 percent of the plays I was in”. He said, “I know I can play…when I start knowing the plays I’ll help my team…it’s going to hit sooner or later”.
The Steelers have shown a willingness to rotate at outside linebacker with a starter not affixed to the position right now. The situation at left defensive end could be considered fluid as well, but with Keisel absorbing so many snaps as it is, it may still be a while before Tuitt actually sees the field with any consistency.