The Pittsburgh Steelers are now training camp, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.
Even training camp will look much different from the norm, and a big part of that will be the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. There will be no preseason played in 2020, so the first time the Steelers take the field in 2020 will be for the season opener against the New York Giants.
Before we get there, however, there are a number of issues that are outstanding on this team, and this year’s edition of training camp will not provide the level of thoroughness that teams are normally used to in trying to answer those questions.
Questions like, what is the starting offensive line going to look like? Will it include Zach Banner or Chukwuma Okorafor? Who will be the primary nose tackle? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will Stephon Tuitt pick up where he left off last season before his injury?
This might quietly be the biggest question about the defense this season. With Javon Hargrave gone, it’s been assumed that Stephon Tuitt’s return will essentially cancel out and offset that loss. But what if the Stephon Tuitt of 2020 isn’t the one that we’ve come to expect?
And that’s not even to ask if he will be the same player that he was at the end of his 2019 season. He already had three and a half sacks through five games and a bunch of tackles for loss. He was arguably the best player on defense at the time that he suffered a pectoral injury that put him on the shelf.
And if he was arguably the best player then, he could arguably be the best player this season—reminding of course that that is no small feat, given the likes of T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Minkah Fitzpatrick who are on the roster as well and returning from All-Pro seasons.
It seems as though we’ve been waiting for Tuitt to break out for four or five years now, and we’ve seen exciting glimmers of it, often derailed by injury. This latest injury was the most significant by a good margin. Will that have taken a toll on him, and will it be reflected in the level of play we get from him this year?