Prior to him suffering a torn pectoral muscle in the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 6 road game against the Los Angeles Chargers, defensive end Stephon Tuitt probably could have been described as the team’s co-defensive most valuable player up until then. After all, Tuitt, the Steelers 2014 second-round draft pick out of Notre Dame, had 3.5 sacks, 22 total tackles and six total quarterback hits through five games played and looked to be on pace to have another great game against the Chargers. Tuitt’s 2019 season ended abruptly early in that game against the Chargers and he’s since had surgery and gone through a lengthy rehab to be ready for the 2020 season.
“You know, Stephon is doing really well,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Thursday about Tuitt when asked about the team’s defensive end during a Steelers Nation United conference call with fans. “You know, like I mentioned with Ben [Roethlisberger] earlier, his injury occurred at the early portions of the season and as miserable as it made him and us in 2019, it kind of bodes well for readiness in terms of 2020. So, we expect Stephon to be ready to go and we’re excited about having he and his talents back.”
That’s certainly great news and matches what Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said about Tuitt’s condition in an early March interview while in Indianapolis, IN for the annual NFL scouting combine.
“Tuitt was totally on schedule during the season,” Colbert told Missi Matthews of steelers.com this past March. “Again, he should be full go as we enter into the offseason phase of football. But again, we’ll be careful with that, you know, get him through the coaching sessions, the OTAs, the minicamps. and then into camp because he is coming off an injury. But there shouldn’t be any setbacks.”
Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic means no OTA or minicamp practices for Tuitt. That shouldn’t be a big deal, however, with Tuitt being an experienced player. If things go as planned and according to what all has been indicated by Tomlin and Colbert so far, Tuitt should be able to start the team’s training camp in July without any sort of limitations.
Could Tuitt ultimately be a 2020 Comeback Player of the Year candidate? It’s certainly possibly and especially if he’s able to pick up where he left off last season with the quality of his play before going down injured.
2020 is a big season for Tuitt as he’s set to earn $9 million this year. Only once in his six NFL seasons has Tuitt played in all 16 games and that was during his 2014 rookie season. Prior to last season he had missed 10 regular season games with various injuries so it’s vital that he proves he can stay available throughout the 2020 season. If he does manage to make it through the full 2020 regular season without issue, he could potentially wind up having a Pro Bowl-type season, the best of his career.