The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Question: Game Edition – Can Stephon Tuitt continue to step up his game—and production—in the absence of Cameron Heyward?
Leading up to the game in which Cameron Heyward was injured—though nobody knew the extent of the injury at that time—Stephon Tuitt had yet to record his first sack of the season. Over the course of the past two games, he has picked up three—or three and a half, depending on whom who ask, because NFL.com currently is crediting him with two sacks on Sunday rather than two and a half.
Not that he had not been playing well prior to that, or even lacking in pressure—according to our charting, he was already leading the team in pressures—but the Steelers needed, and need, him to play at another level with Heyward on injured reserve.
On Sunday, he did that, having easily his best game of the season and being a consistent presence in the passing game, while the Browns were limited in even attempting to run the ball. Even with a Colts team short-handed without their quarterback, they will need Tuitt to do it again, and for the remainder of the season.
That may be especially important today if the Steelers do try to use the same strategy that they used last year when facing the Colts with a backup quarterback, which was to confuse him by dropping more players into coverage. But in doing so, they place an even greater burden on the pass rushers to get home and at least pressure the quarterback into releasing the ball.
The Colts don’t exactly have the best offensive line in the league—their left tackle has provided one of the leakiest edges in the league, and they are starting a rookie center—and the defense has been moving Tuitt around now without Heyward.
The Steelers should be putting him into situations that will allow him to make plays, because right now, he is their best hope of providing consistent pressure against the quarterback, even considering the recent token success seen by the outside linebackers.