Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt doesn’t see himself as a guy who has it all. Rather, he sees himself as a guy who is on his way to having it all. It will start, of course, with a likely payday, as his agent and the team are expected to work out a long-term contract extension as he head into the last year on his rookie contract.
While he told reporters last week that he doesn’t really care all that much about the negotiations and that he doesn’t “really talk to my agent much”, he understands what is potentially on the horizon for his long-term financial future. He would have to be a fool not to.
But it’s not just financial stability that he’s after. He wants to be the best defensive lineman in the league. He also told reporters that he feels that he is “probably a couple of steps away” from being exactly that, as well as from many more sacks that he could have after registering four in 2016.
But it’s not just money, nor personal excellence, that he is looking to achieve during his time in the NFL. He is also looking for collective greatness, from his position group, and from his team as a whole. And he doesn’t have to look far to find the inspiration.
“I talk to the older guys like Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, and Brett Keisel”, he said during OTAs last week, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. Hampton, Smith, and Keisel are names that should be well-known to followers of this site, as they were the core of the Steelers’ defensive line in some of their best years from the mid-00s to the early 10s.
Hampton and Smith, of course, were in place earlier, with Keisel’s emergence as a starter coming a bit later, but he was the starter during the 2008 Super Bowl run, and he ultimately developed into a Pro-Bowl player.
The former seventh-round pick was still with the team when the Steelers drafted Tuitt in 2014, but he was on his way out. He had by then become a rotational player, and he suffered a career-ending triceps tear toward the end of the year. But his being there was enough for Tuitt to taste what Keisel was able to achieve in his career.
“I want to experience that feeling here”, he said of what his predecessors accomplished. “I want to know what that’s like, and I’m glad I have one more year to try to do that with them”. He says one more year, of course, but both he and the team are hoping that that becomes at least five or six more.