All the focus has been on Ben Roethlisberger’s return. Rightfully so. As he goes, so does the franchise. But the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense is getting a big piece back too. Stephon Tuitt returns after suffering a season-ending injury relatively early into last year. His return will be critical for a team who just lost Javon Hargrave to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Speaking to the media via Zoom call Wednesday, Vince Williams talked about Tuitt’s return.
“Tuitt a tremendous force on the d-line. Having his presence back is going to be amazing really. I mean, everybody knows what Tuitt brings to the game. I really don’t have to hype him. He’s a beast. He’s somebody that needs to be dealt with. it’s not that we’re going to do different things with them, but just [having him on the field] is going to be a huge impact for us.”
Tuitt suffered a season-ending pec injury against the Chargers last season. Prior to that, Tuitt was having an All-Pro caliber, breakout season. Through six games, he recorded 22 tackles, six for loss, with 3.5 sacks. Though there was plenty of talent around him, there was a legitimate case Tuitt was the MVP of the defense before going down. He wasn’t just overwhelming rookies either. In Week 3 against the 49ers, he schooled Mike McGlinchey, one of the up-and-coming tackles in football.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) September 23, 2019
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) September 24, 2019
The biggest difference in Tuitt’s game was the ability to finish plays. In past seasons, he too often missed the tackle, got the hurry but not the sack, was just a half-step slow to making the play. All that changed a year ago. Now Tuitt will hope for that to carry over and to avoid the freak injuries that have derailed his career far too often.
Tuitt’s return soothes the loss of Hargrave, too. Not as a nose tackle, Tuitt won’t occupy that role, but as a nickel/dime pass rusher. Hargrave assumed that role. Now Tuitt will grab it back and make up a dynamic duo with him and Cam Heyward. Behind them sit Isaiah Buggs, who impressed in 75 snaps as a rookie, Chris Wormley, and maybe a bit of Tyson Alualu, though he’ll also work as the team’s nose tackle in their base 3-4 defense.