I’ve got some good news and bad news for you. According to Pro Football Focus, Stephon Tuitt was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ best pass-rusher so far this season, before suffering a pectoral tear during Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers that will have him on ice for the rest of the year. The good news is that T.J. Watt wasn’t far behind.
The site published a position-neutral list of the top 25 pass rushers of the 2019 season so far, and both of the aforementioned Steelers defenders were on the list. in fact, Tuitt came in as high as sixth in the league, behind only Khalil Mack, Myles Garrett, Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, and Calais Campbell, which is not a bad group to be linked to.
“Tuitt’s season has just been ended through injury, cutting short the best season of his career to date”, wrote Gordon McGuinness when it was time to talk about Pittsburgh’s sixth-year defensive lineman. “From 168 pass-rushing snaps in 2019, he had delivered four sacks, two hits and 12 hurries”.
But he wasn’t the only member of the Steelers defense whom the site ranked in the top 10 pass rushers in the NFL right now. Watt finished at 10, with Chandler Jones, Joey Bosa, and Grady Jarrett sandwiched in between himself and his teammate.
“The second Watt on the list, the Steelers edge rusher is enjoying the best pass-rushing season of his three-year career so far in 2019”, it reads. “Through six games, he has produced an 83.9 PFF pass-rushing grade, up from 78.7 in his second season”.
Watt leads the Steelers with four sacks, which includes a couple of half-sacks in the mix, while Tuitt remains tied with Cameron Heyward just behind Watt with three and a half sacks. Their 20 sacks as a group through six games ranks among the best in the NFL.
Both Watt and Tuitt rank high relative to their positions in other key statistics such as tackles for loss and quarterback pressures and hits. Watt may well be heading toward another Pro Bowl season if he continues to play as he has, even if he might not hit the same sack total that he had a year ago.
It does go without saying that Tuitt will not be replaced. They have other good players, but Tuitt was arguably the best defender on the field for the Steelers this year, seemingly putting it all together, and he was really wreaking havoc at times, even having his way with Marshal Yanda a couple of weeks ago.
This list his just a reminder of what the Steelers are losing for the rest of the season, but a breath of hope for what he can be next year, under the guidance of Heyward, who went through the same injury himself in 2016.