Stephon Tuitt just won his second Defensive Player of the Week honorific of his career today, from his performance against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday that included two sacks and three tackles for loss, so it seems as good a time as any for his battery mate, Cameron Heyward, to lavish praise upon him.
The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive captain was asked to describe the impact that a healthy Tuitt has had on the unit this season, after he was limited to just five-plus games last year. At the time, he was off to the best start of his career, and now that he has gotten the opportunity to get deeper into the season, he is making good on the promise that he showed in 2019.
“Stefon’s having a great year”, Heyward said (speaking the obvious, frankly). “He came in with the right mindset, not only in good physical condition, but also his mental aspect. I thought he grew a lot, understanding that the plays are gonna come to him”.
“He was always around the quarterback, always about to make the plays, but now you’re seeing him finish plays”, he said, though I would note that this was a trend we really started seeing a couple of years ago at least. “I’m happy for him, but he’s got to continue to do it. We understand he’s a great talent for our defense”.
Heyward added that he feels himself and their edge rushers really benefit from the work Tuitt puts in, which often consists of stressing the offensive line’s protection by penetrating into a gap, and that he is only going to make the team better as a whole.
This is not the first time that Tuitt has had a standout game, of course. Back in week 11 of 2016, for example, he also won the Defensive Player of the Week Award, credited with two sacks, five tackles, two tackles for loss, and four quarterback hits.
According to an article from Steelers.com, he was originally credited with two and a half sacks in that game, so it must have been a scoring change after the fact that took a half-sack away from him. Interestingly, he only finished with four sacks that year despite playing in 14 games.
He currently has six sacks through seven games, which is just half a sack behind his career-high of 6.5 that he posted in 2015, his second year in the league and first season as a full-time starter. Considering the fact that he has nine games to muster up just one more, I think the betting odds are in favor of him setting a new high.
In fact, he’s currently trending toward surpassing Heyward’s best season of 12 sacks, which is one of just three seasons by a Steelers defensive lineman in which they registered double-digit sacks. The first two were recorded by Keith Willis in the early- to mid-80s soon after sacks became an official statistic.