We are starting a new summer series to look at who might be the next players to take that next step up. We’ll be taking a look at those players who have been productive to this point in their careers but could be on the verge of busting out and getting more national recognition. This is a breakout candidate for the 2020 season.
In 2019, he was ready. Right from the start of the season. The very first defensive play of the year.
He lined up as the left defensive end, beat the right tackle to the inside, ran through the fullback and made the tackle for a loss.
He was ready to have a great season and a torn pectoral muscle derailed his season.
To This Point
Since he was drafted in 2014 Tuitt has been a consistently solid performer. Playing next to an All-Pro like Cameron Heyward may leave him overshadowed at times but Tuitt deserves to be recognized.
He has been a starter for 5 of his 6 years and has averaged 37 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 7 tackles for a loss and 13 quarterback hits. His best overall season came in his sophomore season when he compiled 6.5 sacks, 54 tackles including 39 solo, 8 tackles for a loss and 12 QB hits.
His pass rushing ability has shown improvement with consistent QB hit numbers that led to 20 QB hits in 2018. His sack numbers have ranged from 3 to 6.5 as a starter. He’s best using power rushes but can use quickness as well.
Against the run, he plays with eyes in the backfield, and unstoppable motor and uses his hands and length well to stack and shed blockers. His tackles for a loss have been a consistent 6 to 8 per season as a starter.
In 2019, he got off to a great start with 3.5 sacks and 22 tackles in 5 games (he was injured after 5 plays in game number 6 at the Chargers). The addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick helped turn the Steelers defense into one of the most formidable in the league. They were tied for first in offensive yards per play, were first in takeaways and first in sacks.
Getting a healthy Tuitt back to align with Heyward, T.J Watt and Bud Dupree, who combined for 35 sacks, on passing downs makes the pass rush that much formidable. Teams aren’t going to be able to double team all four of those guys. Tyson Alualu did a nice job filling in overall but isn’t the pass rush threat that Tuitt can be.
Here he is lined up at the 2i position inside the right guard D.J. Fluker (78). He’ll use a double chop and some bend to get around him for the sack.
Against San Francisco’s right tackle Mike McGlinchy (69), Tuitt will show his strength to lock on and yank down the blocker to free himself for the sack.
Against Baltimore, he’s going to swim over right tackle Orlando Brown Jr to get into the backfield for the tackle.
Lined up as the 3T he faces off with Marshal Yanda (73). Notice his head the entire time is on the RB, shows agility working over the body on the ground and makes the tackle.
It hasn’t been all good though unfortunately. Injuries have led to Tuitt only playing 16 games once (rookie year). He played 14 games in three other seasons, 12 in 2017 and 6 last year.
Also, he has not been at his best in the playoff games. In 7 playoff games, he has 18 total tackles, 2 TFL, 5 QB hits and 0 sacks.
What can happen?
We saw a glimpse of what was possible last year before the injury. In two of his games he had two of his highest tackle totals in his career (7 vs San Francisco, 8 vs Baltimore) bested only by his 10 solo tackle game against Baltimore in 2015.
If we look at the last 14 games Tuitt has played he is really putting it together. Over that time period he has 8 sacks, 45 tackles, 32 solo, 12 tackles for a loss and 21 QB hits.
If we prorate the numbers from his 5 full games in 2019 across 14 games you get 10 sacks, 62 tackles, 17 TFL and 17 QB hits. All but QB hits would all be career highs. Now you can’t prorate like that accurately but it shows the potential is there for a big season.
So here is what you have.
- A veteran player in his prime years
- Someone who showed they were on the verge of breaking out last year
- A starter returning to an already formidable defense
- Three other impressive pass rushers already on the team
- The potential to have many winnable one on one situtations
Result – A healthy season will be a breakout year for Tuitt leading to career high numbers.