It’s easy for the national media to remember that the Pittsburgh Steelers were without one of their star players for the majority of the 2019 season when that star player is Ben Roethlisberger a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback who’s thrown for over 5000 yards in a season and has been to numerous Pro Bowls.
Many may forget that he wasn’t only major player they lost for the year as well. In actuality, the Steelers lost two starters on defense, but we forget about one because Sean Davis was replaced by Minkah Fitzpatrick. If that didn’t happen, we may have had Kameron Kelly starting for the rest of the year—maybe even into this year.
But I’m talking about Stephon Tuitt, of course, the seventh-year defensive lineman who was off to the best start of his career in 2019 before he suffered a season-ending injury early in the sixth game of the season. He spent the rest of the year watching from the sidelines, and his teammates have been impatient in waiting to see him get back.
“I think the heart grows fonder when you’re away. For Tuitt, personally, he’s itching to go”, Cameron Heyward said of his line mate. “He’s ready to go. I understand we lost Javon Hargrave. We won’t be able to replace him completely. Having a heavy veteran like Tyson Alualu, big Dan [McCullers] coming into shape and having Tuitt there, we can more than enough sustain that. We just have to stay healthy, continue to be a cohesive unit”.
In Tuitt’s absence, Heyward put together yet another Pro Bowl season with nine sacks, the second-most in his career, and a career-best 83 tackles, as well as six passes defensed. In little more than five games, Tuitt already had 22 tackles and three and a half sacks, and had six tackles for loss.
The Steelers will not easily make up for the loss of Javon Hargrave in free agency, who is expected to be sidelined for weeks after suffering an injury in training camp for the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday, but it wasn’t easy for them to make up for Tuitt’s loss a year ago, either.
He hasn’t had the best luck since he signed a contract extension, with the 2018 season coming closest to what he ought to have been. But now he is back in pads and looking to be at least something close to 100 percent as he ramps up to try to prove himself all over again.
Tuitt still has two years left on his contract with the Steelers after this season is over, but for Heyward, this year is it. At least that is the case for now. While he acknowledged that the front office and his agent are talking about an extension, there hasn’t been much progress. Hopefully this isn’t the last year we see those two terrorizing quarterbacks and running backs together.