Although Steve McLendon helped ease the loss of Stephon Tuitt, it sure will be nice to see 91 out there today.
The only person happier than us is, of course, Tuitt himself. The two weeks he missed with a knee sprain were understandably frustrating for the second-year player.
“You never want to be hurt. Another thing is you want to go out there every Sunday with your guys. So at the same time, when you’re not able to do that, you get kind of down,” he told reporters Friday. “But you gotta stay positive because it’s a long season.”
Tuitt heaped praise on McLendon, who primarily played as the left end – Tuitt’s spot – in base packages last week against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Steve did great. That’s the one thing about our defensive line. We learn and are able to play one of our other teammates’ positions. When we come here, that’s our goal to learn to the playbook.”
McLendon played 18 snaps of the 22 left end snaps in the Steelers’ 3-4 against the Bengals and 51 overall, by far his most as a Steeler. He finished with a sack, his first of the season.
He also believes it ultimately is a good thing he waited an extra week to get fully healthy before returning.
“A lot of people come back before they’re ready to come back and they get delayed. I think I had a good time being able to get away, heal myself, and come back with a strong body and be able to finish out this second half of the season.”
Tuitt himself was in the middle of a Pro Bowl-worthy campaign. Through five games, he recorded 27 tackles and 3.5 sacks, the latter figure occurring in three straight games. He’ll face a tough task against a surprinsgly strong Oakland Raiders’ offensive line that has given up only eight sacks all season. Four of those came in one game against the Denver Broncos three weeks ago.