While the Pittsburgh Steelers have generally been trending in a positive direction in the past couple of weeks, including on the health front, getting a number of injured players back, one player they will not see on the field again this year is Stephon Tuitt, the sixth-year defensive lineman who was having his best season to date before suffering a pectoral injury that shut him down for the year.
That occurred early in the team’s victory against the Los Angeles Chargers, and they were able to adjust on the fly, though I believe they only recorded one sack in that game. Tomorrow’s game against the Miami Dolphins will be the first in which they implement a gameplan designed to mitigate Tuitt’s loss.
“It is going to be tough”, defensive coordinator Keith Butler admitted to reporters during the week when asked about how the rotation along the defensive line would change without him, courtesy of a transcript from the team’s media department. “We have some guys that can play, though”.
He mentioned, of course, Cameron Heyward, and Javon Hargrave, and included Tyson Alualu in that group, who will be moving into the starting lineup in Tuitt’s absence. “We are just going to have to depend on those guys to play well for us and have somebody pick up the slack”, Butler offered.
The remaining three players along the roster on the defensive line are nose tackle Daniel McCullers, in addition to Isaiah Buggs and L.T. Walton. Buggs is a rookie sixth-round pick who has not even dressed for a game as of yet. Walton was re-signed following Tuitt’s injury after spending the 2015-2018 seasons in Pittsburgh, often as a healthy scratch.
One of them will have to dress. For the moment, it has sounded as though Buggs will be the one to get the opportunity to get on the field in contribute in some small way, even though Walton has substantially more experience and familiarity with the defense courtesy of his four years running it, at multiple positions.
But Butler also gives the impression that they understand that they are going to have to lean more heavily on their top guys—on Heyward, on Hargrave, and now on Alualu as well—to get the job done defensively.
They will have to be more selective with the scenarios in which they give their starters rest, rather than asking players who haven’t even been on the field yet this year to play a significant role. But as Mike Tomlin would say, ‘such is life in the National Football League’. You adapt or you die.