You don’t normally continue to talk about players, outside of perhaps the quarterback position, in youthful terms as they head into their sixth NFL season the way the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Stephon Tuitt is, but we are continuing to hear that discussion around the 2014 second-round draft pick.
Having already gotten paid two offseasons ago, one can argue that the Steelers are still waiting for their investment to pay dividends, but one of the biggest reasons that Tuitt hasn’t put up bigger numbers is because he has been frequently dogged by injuries, especially during the 2017 season, from the second snap of the opener.
The defensive end recently spoke plainly about his future and his need to perform better than he has in the past, the need to become a better finisher and turn more of his pressures into sacks, more of his penetration into tackles for loss.
Cameron Heyward said that “Tuitt is very hard on himself, and I wouldn’t have that any other way”. I think it’s fair to say that Heyward himself is very much that way. He doesn’t really talk about the plays that he makes, but rather the ones that he could have made, that he wants to make the next time he has that opportunity.
Back in 2015, his second season and first as a full-time starter, it looked like he was about to have his coming-out party, posting six and a half sacks even though he missed a couple of games. Since then, however, the latter tidbit has been the more consistent theme than the former.
The Notre Dame alumnus has experienced a number of nicks of a variety of seriousness every season outside of his rookie year, causing him to miss at least two games, but he and the rest of his teammates and coaches are hoping for a different result for him in 2019.
“It’s about being healthy when the season starts”, Heyward said. “As he continues to progress and work, he’s going to be a heck of a player”. He added earlier about his younger running mate that he “has gotten a bad break a couple of times…whether it was injuries or stuff happens, I’ll never take anything away from him”.
Nobody, perhaps other than David DeCastro, should know better than Heyward what Tuitt is capable of doing on a consistent basis once all the stars finally align for him, assuming that they do. “I know what he brings to the table”, he said, and “when he puts it all together, there’s not a lot of guys that can stop it”.
The Steelers have the potential to have a dominant pass-rushing defensive line this year with Heyward, Tuitt, and Javon Hargrave, especially if they can get greater assistance from the second and third levels in players like Devin Bush and Steven Nelson.