When it comes to pass-rushers, there is nothing that sticks in their mind more than the sacks that they make, except for the ones that they just miss. We have written about many pass-rushers over the years who have pretty much said the same thing. Bud Dupree is a big recent example who spends a lot of time—arguably too much time—talking about the ones that got away.
Every year is another opportunity to close in that half-step quicker, to get your hand out over the ball just a split second earlier, to finish the play. That is what Stephon Tuitt is working on this offseason as he heads into his sixth season in the NFL.
Originally selected in the second-round out of Notre Dame by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tuitt would begin contributing right away, but he entered the starting lineup at the end of his rookie season. He broke out with a career-high six and a half sacks in 2015, but has yet to reach that again.
He looked like he was going to have a spectacular year in 2017 until he suffered an arm injury two plays in, which limited him all year. He did bounce back sufficiently last year, posting five and a half sacks and four passes defensed, the latter a career-high. But he knows he can get his numbers up.
He is looking to be “more consistent and more finishing” this season, he said. “A couple slip-offs, the ball just getting out. Just things that I can do quicker, what I can do faster where I’m more comfortable with myself”.
Finishing plays has been an issue for the big man throughout his career. He has superior athleticism for a man his size, which allows him to put himself in position to make plays pretty routinely. He generates a lot of pressure in the passing game, for example, but he has not consistently closed to end those plays with sacks.
Truth be told, Cameron Heyward was at a similar point in his career when he started hitting the higher numbers in the sack count, being able to finish more plays, so perhaps that is a positive sign that Tuitt—still having just recently turned 26 years old, by the way—will follow along behind him.
The Steelers do have one of the most talented 3-4 defensive fronts in the NFL between Heyward, Tuitt, and Javon Hargrave. They are hoping that their latest draft pick in the trenches, Alabama alumnus Isaiah Buggs, might be able to provide a pass-rushing spark off the bench as well.