At least by the time that you get to the top of your profession, sheer talent and ability is not enough to reach the top. You also have to have the drive, the motivation, the hunger not just to be successful, but to thrive, even to dominate. We are seeing that hunger in 2020 from Stephon Tuitt of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the seventh-year defensive end who is having the best season of his career.
Through 10 games, it is clear that he is on the path toward a Pro Bowl. He has 32 tackles on the year with seven going for lost yardage. He has a career-high seven sacks, and already 18 quarterback hits, just two off his best from 2018. He also has two forced fumbles and two batted passes on top of that.
With the next game coming up on Thanksgiving against the Baltimore Ravens, Tuitt is ready for the stage. A lot of players may groan about having to play on a holiday, but there are others who embrace the opportunity, and he is one of them.
“For me, it’s very exciting. Thanksgiving is actually one of my favorite holidays, and it is a chance to have food and have everybody get together and grub and do the things that you love to do, like watch football”, he told reporters yesterday, from video provided to us by the team’s media department.
“To be able to play on it, and know that’s what families are doing, it’s a huge honor for us to be on that scene”, he continued. “To be honest, it’s very exciting, it’s motivational for me, to try to go out there and have a great game so I can try to get a turkey leg at the end”.
Given the numbers that he has been putting up, it shouldn’t be too difficult for him to have a standout game. He has already been named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week once this season, for his performance against the Ravens four weeks ago. He had nine tackles and two sacks in that contest with three hits and three tackles for loss.
A fair case could be made that Tuitt has been the Steelers’ best player this season, but the good news is that he has plenty of competition from the likes of T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Cameron Heyward, just sticking with the defensive side of the ball.
That’s great news given that his 2019 season ended prematurely with a torn pectoral muscle. He was off to a career-best start last year, with 22 tackles and 3.5 sacks in just five games, along with six tackles for loss, by the time he was injured.
Heyward also suffered a torn pectoral muscle in 2016 that ended his sixth season in the NFL prematurely, and he went on to take his game to another level, making the Pro Bowl in each of the past three years. Will Tuitt follow that exact same path?