Through the first five games of the 2019 season leading up to his pectoral injury, Stephon Tuitt recorded 22 total tackles, including six for a loss, with six quarterback hits, having already up to that point accumulated three and a half sacks. He was off to the best start of his career.
The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman is off to an even better start so far to start the 2020 season, back from that pectoral injury. He has 15 total tackles, three of which have gone for a loss, but 12 quarterback hits, four sacks (including two half-sacks, a forced fumble, and a pass batted down.
Asked what he is seeing from his big man this year so far in terms of what he has done well, defensive coordinator Keith Butler gave exactly the answer that he ought to have. “What he’s done well this year is he’s stayed healthy”, he said with a laugh, via transcript. That’s the only difference so far between this year and last year.
“If he had stayed healthy last year, I think we would have gotten the same thing we are getting out of him this year”, he went on. “He is playing well for us. All those front guys have a lot of pride in what we’re doing, how our defense is playing. They want everybody to play well around them, and they try to do their job as good as they can. Stephon, certainly, has been doing that”.
You can make a very good argument that Tuitt is the best player on the Steelers’ defense right now. Perhaps their best player on the entire team. He has been that good, that disruptive. And the players and scheme that they have around him help to make him even better by enabling him to use his great physical and athletic attributes to ‘freelance’ a bit and make plays. Which is why he is living in the backfield.
Tuitt himself also happened to speak to the media on Thursday, and he was asked if he felt like, after last season, everything is finally starting to come together for him. “Oh, it’s already happened”, he responded. “It’s just being consistent and being on the field. You can’t control what football gives. All I can control is my output on the field and what I do before games”.
Tuitt has always had the talent. It might have taken him a few seasons to fully grasp what is role is within the Steelers’ scheme and to improve on his consistency, but what we are seeing from Tuitt since last year is nothing we haven’t seen before. He is a dominant player. This is just the best opportunity he has had yet to fully showcase it, and it may well land him his first Pro Bowl.