Ask any fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers who the team’s most underrated player is and I doubt many will choose defensive end Stephon Tuitt. However, according to a recent insider post on ESPN.com, Tuitt was given that title by Vincent Verhei of Football Outsiders.
Cameron Heyward gets the attention up front, but Tuitt really came on last season, with 6.5 sacks, five hits and 19.5 hurries — along with 40 run tackles — all in just 14 games. He’s a player to watch this season.
I don’t think many Steelers fans will argue with that blurb. What’s most interesting about the 2015 season that Tuitt had is the fact that it likely would have been much better had he not suffered a knee injury during the team’s Week 6 game against the Arizona Cardinals. That injury wound up costing the Steelers former second-round draft pick two and a half games for starters and once back healthy and in the lineup, it took a few weeks for him to regain the form he had prior to his injury.
In total, Tuitt played 870 total defensive snaps last year during the regular season in 14 games. If things go as planned in 2016, the Steelers will have enough quality depth behind him and fellow starter Cameron Heyward that both players should wind up only having to play 80-85% of the team’s total defensive snaps.
Even though he’s already been in the league for two seasons, Tuitt is still just 23 years of age. He is primed for a monster season in 2016 and if some consider him underrated right now, he certainly shouldn’t be at this same time next year. Tuitt will be in line for a contract extension at this same time next year as well.
As far as my choice for the Steelers most underrated player, I would likely choose tackle Marcus Gilbert.