The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will Stephon Tuitt practice today, or play on Sunday?
The Steelers spent their last game without one of their key starters on defense in fifth-year veteran defensive end Stephon Tuitt, missing action with an elbow injury suffered late in their previous contest. While he said earlier this week that the plan was for him to play, he has not yet practiced.
I don’t believe anybody has definitely said one way or another that he will have to practice if he is going to play on Sunday, but it’s not something we can rule out. Still, it would be hard to ask a defensive lineman to play without any live reps during the week, even one as experienced as he is.
Most of Tuitt’s snaps in the nickel defense were taken by Javon Hargrave, particularly late in the game, and he certainly held his own as a pass-rusher, including a career-high two sacks. While I would like to see more of the latter on the field, they are clearly a better unit when Tuitt is available to them.
Add on to that the fact that he was playing at his highest level of the season at the time of his injury and the situation becomes more frustrating. The Steelers still managed to generate six sacks during the game without him, but the defense as a whole was still hurting.
Should he be forced to sit out another week, it will be interesting to see how they redistribute his snaps. Hargrave hardly came off the field in the second half, while Daniel McCullers, who played a lot early, spent more time on the bench. Then there is L.T. Walton, who rarely gets the chance to get on the field.
Tuitt said on his radio show on Tuesday that he has been working closely with the medical staff and they have been bringing him along slowly, so I can’t help but wonder if part of that process was to ease him into today’s practice. I guess we’ll find out in a little b it.