It has been an eventful last couple of days for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger is out for the rest of the year, Mason Rudolph is the man for at least the next 14 games and Minkah Fitzpatrick is now a Steeler. That can be a lot to digest and with a loss to the Seattle Seahawks sprinkled in, there has been little time to look into Sunday’s showing against the Seahawks, which is a shame because Stephon Tuitt had arguably the best game of his six-year career.
Tuitt recorded 2.5 sacks in Sunday’s loss against the Seahawks, which is nearly half of the total amount of sacks he recorded last season (5.5) and half a sack away from his 2017 total (3). His 2.5 sacks were a career high but Tuitt contributed much more to the Steelers’ defense than his 2.5 sacks would suggest. The Steelers recorded four sacks Sunday and the sixth-year defensive end was involved on all four sacks and a lot more.
Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler catches a lot of flak and rightfully so but Butler can still draw up some pretty impressive stunts. Butler’s blitz designs are a major reason why the Steelers have led the NFL in sacks over the last two seasons. The Steelers’ first sack of Sunday afternoon was a by-product of Butler’s stunts as Tuitt occupies the right guard and pushes downfield, getting in the right tackle’s path as well. This leaves a perfect opportunity for T.J. Watt to loop inside and take out Russell Wilson. Watt gets credited for the sack but it would not have been possible without Tuitt perfectly executing his assignment.
Tuitt is a rare player, in the sense that he is as complete as a defensive end that you will find. The sixth year defensive end shows off his strength above as he drives D.J. Fluker about five yards back and swallows Wilson while still being engaged with Fluker. Tuitt splits the sack with Mark Barron who comes untouched into the backfield.
The sack is a result of Tuitt’s astonishing feat of strength but also the result of another perfectly executed blitz design. The Seahawks have five in protection and the Steelers rush five, which means that everyone should be accounted for. That is not the case though as the Seahawks double team Cameron Heyward instead of sliding protection to the right, leaving Barron an open lane through the B gap.
Fluker had a tough afternoon trying to stop Tuitt and it seems that instead of waiting for the Steelers’ defensive end to come to him, Fluker is going to try and stop Tuitt before he has a chance to drive him back. That plan fails miserably as Tuitt quickly disengages and rips through Fluker for another sack.
Another perfectly executed stunt and another sack for the Steelers defense. While Tuitt was the orchestrator on the Steelers’ first sack, he is the recipient on the fourth and final sack of the afternoon after Javon Hargrave clogs up Fluker and center Justin Britt. The Steelers must have noticed that they would have a chance of causing serious havoc if they attacked Fluker because that is one area they targeted repeatedly on Sunday.
While neither Tuitt nor anyone on the Steelers’ defense notched a sack in the second half, that did not mean that they were not close. Tuitt has Fluker beat once again but this time the Seahawks’ right guard opts for a holding penalty rather than be credited for allowing another sack.
If Fluker does not hold the Steelers defensive end on the play above, we are likely talking about a 3.5 sack performance by Tuitt, which would put him in a tie for the third most sacks through the first two weeks.
Tuitt’s potential has never been a secret, he has always been regarded as a multi-tooled pass rusher capable of winning with power or finesse but for one reason or another, he has been unable to put together a consistent performance across 16 games. That could change this season if the 26-year old defensive end continues to turn in performances like the one he had last Sunday.