With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and there soon being little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.
The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first eight games with a 6-2 record, tied for the best in the AFC along with the Patriots and the Chiefs, the latter of whom they have already beaten.
The offense has not lived up to its billing for the most part this year, though the running game has had its moments. Defensively, the sacks have come, and the secondary has improved, but there will always be things to work on.
Player: Stephon Tuitt, DE
This season to date is surely not what the Steelers, nor Stephon Tuitt, had in mind as he signed his massive new contract extension on the eve of the 2017 regular season. Not because he has struggled on the field, by any means, but rather simply because he has struggled to stay on the field.
The former second-round pick in 2014 suffered a bicep injury on the second play of the season, which caused him to miss the rest of that game, as well as the next two games. He returned to play in the next three, but a back injury that became exacerbated while lifting kept him out of the past two contests leading into the break.
In all, then, he has only played three games this year, plus two snaps. He has a total of seven tackles and a batted pass to show for it, but I would like to think that anybody who has consistently watched him on the field recognizes that those numbers do not accurately reflect his contributions to the defense’s overall effort.
Tuitt has generated a tremendous amount of pressure, collapsing the pocket, penetrating gaps, and even beating tackles around the edge, as a pass-rusher this season. He has done so well that it would be a crying shame to view his lack of an official sack as an indictment of his productivity in this area.
It is unfortunate that the Steelers have had such comparatively little success over the course of the past two years fielding a defense that has consisted simultaneously of a healthy Tuitt and a healthy Cameron Heyward, the latter having an excellent season himself, leading the team with five sacks to make up for those missing by his partner.
The hope is that the fourth-year stud will be healthy and well-rested coming out of the other side of the bye week as the Steelers march on into the second half of the season, looking to make a very serious run at the Super Bowl. Getting a dynamic and impactful player like him back would provide a serious boost to their defensive efforts.