Devil’s Advocate: Tuitt Surpasses Heyward

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Will Stephon Tuitt end up as a better player than his partner, Cameron Heyward?

One of the major tasks that the Steelers will be trying to accomplish as an organization—and one of the questions that will be riding over their affairs until it does or does not get done—is working out a long-term extension with fourth-year defensive end Stephon Tuitt.

A second-round draft pick back in 2014, Tuitt entered the starting lineup by the end of his rookie season, and in year two, posted 6.5 sacks despite missing a couple of games. While his sack totals were lower last season—still missing some games—he still played well, and many believe that he has more talent than the team’s veteran defensive end, Cameron Heyward.

They may be right about the sheer talent, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Tuitt will ever be a better defensive end than is Heyward, who is pretty close to the prototypical 3-4 defensive end for the Steelers’ current defensive scheme.

Tuitt will be better than Heyward in the long run.

For one thing, there is no reason to believe that Tuitt will not continue to get better, although he does have to do better at staying on the field. He shows truly exceptional flashes of skill, and does so frequently, so it’s really just a matter of being more consistent with those moments and finishing the opportunities that he is presented with, or creates for himself.

Tuitt will not reach Heyward’s level in the long run.

While it might be easier to forget, considering how much time he missed in 2016 due to a number of injuries—for the first time in his career—Heyward is a really good player, regardless of whether or not he has gotten the Pro Bowl recognition. His sheer strength is underrated, and his bull rush is highly disruptive on both running and passing downs.

In order for Tuitt to reach Heyward’s level, he has to play with much more down-to-down consistency, even if he shows flashes of talent beyond Heyward’s abilities. He missed a lot of tackles and lost out on too many sacks last season, even for as much good as he achieved.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

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