The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on 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: How many snaps will Stephon Tuitt be given when he returns to the field?
While it is so far looking positive on the health front for Stephon Tuitt, this question will apply whether he returns this week or another week. The fourth-year defensive end suffered a bicep injury on the second snap of the season and has missed all but those two plays over the course of the past two weeks.
But he practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday and was a full participant yesterday, which puts him on track to play provided that there are no setbacks reported in today’s practice participation. While the defense has held up without him, his return will still obviously be a big boost.
Cameron Heyward has really stepped up in particular in his absence, recording a sack to go along with nine tackles, and he has consistently provided pressure against the pass as well. Tyson Alualu has done an admirable job in Tuitt’s absence, though I haven’t observed much of pass rush from him.
To have Heyward and Tuitt on the field together is to have a pair of Pro Bowl-worthy talents who are both very gifted physically and are fundamentally and schematically sound, and who know how to work off of one another. There is really no substitute for having both of them on the field at the same time.
Yet it may be wise to urge caution. It is true that he even last week was able to do cardio work, so I don’t think that conditioning should be much of an issue, if at all—let’s face it, we’re talking about a 24-year-old here—but you never want to rush somebody back from an injury.
Tuitt said that he was worried his season might be over initially, and seems to understand the bullet that he dodged, yet I’m sure he will be hungry to get back out on the field and make an impact as quickly as possible.