Run the wheels off Willie Parker. And that’s exactly what the Pittsburgh Steelers did. I don’t think Stephon Tuitt has that same speed but the team is pushing him as hard as anyone on this time.
The Steelers’ made some aggressive moves to bolster their defensive line depth. Signing Ricardo Mathews, a shrewd and practical addition. Drafting Javon Hargrave in the third round, breaking their mold of non-traditional nose tackles and one from a level of competition the front office almost never draws from.
The idea, it seemed, was to be able to temper down Tuitt and Cam Heyward’s snap counts. Not with a mortar and pestle but just a light tap. To go from 90% of the snaps to 80%. So those two All-Stars would have some gas in the tank come season’s end.
But lately, Tuitt has been treated like a safety. According to this week’s player counts that have been released by the league, Tuitt again played every single snap. Just as he did a week ago against Baltimore.
Based on our charting, he has played the last 178 snaps. The last time he wasn’t on the field was with 3:03 left in the first quarter against New England, a span of over 11 quarters. Only Mike Mitchell has that kind of active streak with the team right now, and I’d bet you would be hard-pressed to find any defensive linemen who has that sort of streak this season.
Of course, it’s easy to make the argument for why he’s playing so much. He’s an All-Pro talented player and the team needs to put their best foot forward on a defense that has struggled over the past month. As Mike Tomlin says, the other guys have to do something to compel the Steelers to swap Tuitt out.
And, to be fair, Hargrave has rotated in with Heyward a fair bit and of course, saw the majority of the time when he was sidelined. Tuitt is a highly conditioned player who got time off earlier in the season, sitting out the end of blowout wins against Kansas City and New York.
Still, 100%? For basically the last three weeks. That is surprising. Sure, the bye week helped offset some of that but if the Steelers can get back on track with a win, I hope the presumed plan of taking the load off Tuitt a little bit is restored. Because if Pittsburgh can turn this thing around and make that late-season playoff push, they need someone like Tuitt at full strength.