While most of the Pittsburgh Steelers OTA practices have been surrounded by multiple discussions about potential new long-term deals for running back Le’Veon Bell and tackle Alejandro Villanueva, it’s important to keep in mind that defensive end Stephon Tuitt is also likely to receive a new contract prior to the start of the 2017 regular season.
Tuitt, who is now in the final year of his rookie contract with the Steelers after being drafted in the second-round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame, was apparently asked recently about how his contract negotiations are currently going with the organization.
“I don’t really talk to my agent much,” Tuitt said Thursday, according to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I don’t care about that. What I care about is staying in shape and being the best person I can be every day and enjoying what I’m doing.”
Tuitt went on to say that’s he’s really not thinking about anything at all right now outside of attempting to improve his game.
“I’m probably a couple of steps away from being the No. 1 defensive lineman in the league, from having multiple sacks,” Tuitt reportedly said. “It’s just preparing and becoming that guy, the guy the Steelers need me to be and help them get to the Super Bowl.”
Tuitt, who has recorded 11.5 regular season sacks so far during his NFL career of which four came in 2016, played 73.0% of the Steelers defensive snaps last season and that percentage likely would have been even greater had he not sat out the team’s final two games with a knee injury.
During a recent one-on-one interview with Missi Matthews of steelers.com, Tuitt’s position coach, John Mitchell, sang the praises of the Steelers young defensive end, who just turned 24 last month.
“I think Tuitt, right now, had a great season,” Mitchell said. “Hey, he’s a young guy right now. People don’t understand, he came out early, so this is going to be his third year in the league and he’s gotten better, better every year. Here’s a guy that wants to be a good football player and he will do whatever it takes.”
While Tuitt was present for all the Steelers OTA practices this year, he couldn’t participate in them as he’s currently rehabbing a finger injury that needed to be surgically repaired last month. Because of that, it’s unlikely that he’ll be ready to participate in the Steelers manditory minicamp next week.
The Steelers signed fellow defensive end Cameron Heyward to a contract extension just ahead of the start of their 2015 training camp and that new deal came with an average yearly value of $10,456,200. Because of that and in addition to Heyward being a defensive team captain, it’s easy to speculate that a new deal for Tuitt will ultimately average a little less.
Assuming a new deal ultimately gets done with Tuitt and that more than likely will take place during this year’s training camp, or slightly before then, it’s easy to believe that he’ll wind up being one of the top six highest-paid 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL.
“Like any player who hears that information, it’s an honor that a team is looking for you to stay here a couple more years,” Tuitt said, according to Fittipaldo. “But at the same time, it’s a business, and at the same time it’s preparing yourself for anything that can happen.”
While anything certainly can happen between now and the start of the regular season, it will be quite a surprise if Tuitt hasn’t signed a new lucrative long-term deal with the Steelers prior to the team leaving Pittsburgh for their Week 1 road game against the Cleveland Browns.