Being as Pittsburgh Steelers second-year defensive end Stephon Tuitt missed a second-straight practice on Thursday because of a knee sprain that he suffered in the Week 6 win over the Arizona Cardinals, the team might be forced to play without him for a second game in a row on Sunday when they host the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field. However, defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Thursday during an interview on Steelers Nation Radio that he’s not quite ready to rule Tuitt out completely for Sunday’s game.
“We’ll see about Stephon, I’m not giving up hope on him yet,” Butler told Missi Matthews. “Hopefully we can get him back and maybe use him in a conservative role, but well see.”
Should Tuitt wind up not playing at all on Sunday, the Steelers will once again be forced to play backups Cam Thomas and L.T. Walton at left defensive end in their base defense. This past Sunday in the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Thomas recorded four total tackles while Walton, who only played five snaps in the game, failed to crack the stat sheet. Butler was asked Thursday about how those players performed against the Chiefs with Tuitt out.
“I think the guys that we had went in there and tried,” said Butler. “They did the best they could and I don’t fault them for their effort at all. The reason Stephon’s starting is because he’s one of the best we got, so there is a little drop off there when he’s not in the game.”
While the Bengals offense has certainly been impressive so far this season, their running game, as a whole, has been mediocre as they enter Sunday’s game against the Steelers ranked 12th overall in the league in rushing yards per game and 21st overall in yards per carry. With that being noted, the Bengals offensive line has only allowed quarterback Andy Dalton to be sacked a total of six times in their first six games and that’s really where the Steelers will potentially miss Tuitt the most on Sunday should he sit the game out as he currently leads the team in sacks.
While you certainly hate to boil Sunday’s game against the Bengals down to just one Steelers defensive player, not having Tuitt for a second-straight week really could wind up playing a big part in the outcome as Butler really doesn’t sound too confident about the prospects of having to defend the Cincinnati offense without him.