With the Pittsburgh Steelers having completed the first portion of their season, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this year and give out some midseason player evaluations.
The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first six games with a winning record despite being 1-2-1 just two weeks ago. Coming off of consecutive strong victories with improve play from both sides of the ball, things are looking up.
The offense has done its part for the most part, but has taken some long vacations. Their disappearing acts in the second half was perplexing, but that has improved. Defensively, the secondary is seemingly becoming a bit more stable after being nothing short of terrible previously, but there are absolutely some real concerns remaining.
Player: Stephon Tuitt, DE
It wasn’t so long ago that Stephon Tuitt was a favorite among fans. That changed pretty quickly once he got paid, because he suffered a serious injury shortly after that and has yet to play in such a way that really seems to justify him being compensated as he is.
The fifth-year defensive end is arguably the single most talented defensive player on the entire 53-man roster from a physical standpoint, a freakish athlete for his size, with great strength and quickness, and no deficiencies in any other department.
Which is why it’s so hard to explain how he only has one sack so far this season, when he should be more than capable of hitting double digits, or at least coming somewhere within the vicinity.
Of course, one of the problems that he has had throughout his career has been finishing plays, and he has continued to show that that is an issue. He does still find himself in the backfield somewhat frequently—though not as often as Cameron Heyward—but too often is not able to make the play.
He is coming off of arguably his best game of the season, including his first sack and five tackles, including a tackle for loss, and three of them going for stops. He has 22 tackles on the season, which has himself in line to set a new career-high if he maintains such a pace.
He was also having more success getting into the backfield this past week. But it has to be noted that that came against a weak offensive line that in particular has a weak interior. Center Billy Price was out, with backup Trey Hopkins, more comfortable at guard, playing center, and Alex Redmond has given up as much pressure as any guard in the league. He is the one that Tuitt beat for a sack.
Tuitt needs to continue to get better every week, and he has to show that he can do so while playing against a higher level competition. That’s what they need from him. And what they pay him for.