Fourth-year starting defensive end Stephon Tuitt made bank the day before the 2017 regular season began. He had every intention of justifying his newfound wealth and then some with some dominant work on the field along the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive line.
That plan went awry in a hurry after he suffered a bicep injury on the second play of the season opener that caused him to exit the game. Though he avoided a major injury, he was unable to make it back on the field over the course of the past two weeks, but is looking forward to resuming his season.
The former second-round pick recorded a pressure and a tackle for loss on his two snaps. “Those two plays show you what type of year I was planning on already having” he told Chris Adamski. “And from there I got all the confidence in that — and I’m going to continue with it”.
Tuitt was a full participant in practice by the end of the week for the first time since the start of the season and was not even listed on the injury report heading into tomorrow’s game against the Ravens in Baltimore, setting him up for the beginning of something of a second try for the year.
He described his level of excitement for getting back on the field as akin to “a chicken with my head cut off”, running around in anticipation. I think many Steelers fans—and perhaps the defensive coaches—are doing the same after Sunday’s performance against the run in Chicago.
Truly, the Steelers will really welcome him back. Tyson Alualu is a fine reserve, but he has through three games offered very little to nothing in the way of the pass rush. Pro Football Focus credits him with just three pressures on 81 rushes, the fifth-lowest productivity of 27 qualified 3-4 defensive ends.
The site listed Tuitt as having the seventh-highest pass-rush productivity at his position a year ago among players who saw at least 50 percent of their team’s defensive snaps, recording 46 pressures on 464 pass rush snaps. That was the sixth-highest number of total pressures at the position in the league, with three of the five players ahead of him seeing more rushes overall.
He also had the third-highest run stop percentage from last year, recording 22 stops on 250 run snaps. only Derek Wolfe of the Broncos and Leondard Williams of the Jets had a higher percentage. The Steelers could use that—though they could do without the seven missed tackles, second-highest at the position.
Cameron Heyward has been holding up his end of the bargain so far this season, and even PFF acknowledges that he has been a top-five performer at his position in both the run game and as a pass rusher. But Batman needs his Robin back, and he should have it tomorrow. Here’s to hoping that he picks up where he left off.