The Pittsburgh Steelers defense was without one of its key players on Sunday with fifth-year defensive end Stephon Tuitt sidelined due to an elbow injury that he suffered late in the team’s previous game against the Carolina Panthers.
The question now is for how long that will keep him on the shelf, especially considering that he was playing some of his best football of the season leading up to the game. He recorded a sack in three consecutive games while offering strong run defense.
“The goal is to be able to go in and play this week with my elbow [injury] that I have”, Tuitt said during a radio appearance yesterday. “We’re doing everything that we can, doing everything that we need to do to make sure that I’m going to be able to prepare against the Broncos this week”.
He suffered a similar injury last season late in the year, and he was asked if this was the same deal and what was involved in determining when he would be ready to get back out onto the field. He said that it was about “just building the strength back up and then getting everything healed inside of it for me to feel comfortable and confident enough to go into the game and do the things that I do”.
You will recall that he suffered an injury on the second play of the season that left him at far less than 100 percent capacity for the remainder of the year. After the season he talked about how he was playing with just a fraction of the arm strength that he would normally have.
“That’s what matters the most”, he said about the comfort and thoroughness factor. “You can’t go in the game if you jeopardize the team. You want to play but you’ve got to make sure that you’re healthy as well, and the Steelers have been doing a good job with me. I’ve been working with them really well. The staff has been doing a good job, and I’m going to be back out there sooner or later, so I’m not worried about a thing”.
He missed four games last season and was replaced by Tyson Alualu for those occasions, and it was Alualu again filling in for him against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team that he played for during his first seven years in the league.
The former first-round pick recorded seven total tackles in the game on Sunday, five of which were run stops. A sixth came on first and goal from the four-yard line and he made the tackle following a two-yard gain.
While Alualu has proven to be a quality fill-in over the past season and a half, there are elements of Tuitt’s game that he can’t replicate. Javon Hargrave was able to fill some of that void, but the Steelers are obviously at less than full capacity without him healthy and on the field.