The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.
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 offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Will Stephon Tuitt play out his rookie contract?
This is a topic that has been bandied about a fair bit over the course of the past couple of weeks, with many people debating upon the 2017 status of former second-round defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who has been a starter for the past two seasons, as well as for the final four games of his rookie season in 2014.
Tuitt is entering the final season of his rookie contract, and, typically, for starting players the Steelers prefer to negotiate extensions with those they intend to keep around for a while rather than wait for their contract to expire. This method has been particularly prevalent since 2011 when rookie contracts became four years at minimum, negating the restricted free agent tag in most cases.
There are, of course, notable exceptions, such as Le’Veon Bell, though his situation includes obvious extenuating circumstances. Suspensions were a factor in that, but the bigger issue was the knee injury that he was recovering from. Still, the Steelers did extend Maurkice Pouncey while recovering from a torn ACL.
Last season, the Steelers even extended the contract of Vince Williams in spite of the fact that he is not a starter, though it is possible that he ends up in that role this year depending on how the inside linebacker position shakes out over the course of the next several months.
It seems to me more likely than not that at some point between now and the start of the season, the front office is going to get something done with Tuitt to add four years, give or take a couple, to the current one that he is set to finish out.
Others are less sure and wonder if his level of performance through three seasons has merited the sort of money that he is likely to see. Cameron Heyward is regarded as the better player, but due to the inflation of the cap over the course of the past two years, they may end up with similar annual earnings.