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 the absence of Stephon Tuitt pose a big problem for the Steelers’ defense?
Following an injury-plagued 2017 season, Stephon Tuitt has been comparatively healthy this year, but will be missing his first game of the season tomorrow in Jacksonville with an elbow injury that he suffered in a friendly-fire incident during the Steelers’ last game. The fifth-year veteran has already been ruled out.
Tuitt has picked up the pace in recent weeks, with three sacks and 15 tackles over the course of the past four games. Still, when it comes to the Jacksonville Jaguars, my primary concern is stopping the run, and Tuitt’s replacement, Tyson Alualu, I believe is Tuitt’s equal or even better against the run.
Alualu might lack Tuitt’s explosiveness as a penetrator, but he is more disciplined and sheds blockers well at the line of scrimmage. Personally, I thought he was the team’s best run defender last season. So I don’t think going from Tuitt to him will be a big hindrance against the run.
Of course being down a starting lineman is going to be a hindrance on your depth, but really, all that means is that L.T. Walton will be playing more, and I thought he was a solid disciplinarian against the run when he was allowed to play defensive end in 2016, later being moved to nose tackle.
Everybody else is a significant downgrade in terms of the pass rush from Tuitt, though, and even Blake Bortles can kill a team if he has the time to throw. Though the Steelers have been blitzing relentlessly since the bye, I somehow have a feeling they’ll want to back off against Bortles and make him make his reads and hit his throws.
It goes without saying that to have Tuitt healthy is preferable than to not have him, but there are definitely worse games for him to miss, in my opinion. So how about everybody else? Does his absence pose a serious concern for you?