The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t often come out and say that they viewed a player as a first-round talent whom they drafted later on. They did that when they got Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. And frankly, they nailed that one.
While his overall effectiveness has been weighted down by frequent nagging injuries, Tuitt has consistently proven himself to be a very gifted and talented player. Following a season in which he missed most of the year with a torn pectoral muscle, he is now having his best season in 2020.
The seventh-year veteran notched is 10th sack of the season on Sunday, the first time he has ever hit double digits. He also has a career-high 24 quarterback hits, and his nine tackles for loss are also the most in his history. He has forced two fumbles.
Cameron Heyward knows a little something about having a career year after tearing your pectoral muscle, because frankly, he did the same thing a few years ago. Speaking to reporters earlier today, he provided some insight into why that might be.
“I think, one, it’s the first time we’ve ever been truly injured, where we’ve allowed our bodies to heal”, he said. “This is a time where we get to retool and refocus. I think the other thing you’ve got to keep in mind is, you miss the game of football. When you don’t get to be a part of the way the team’s going, it hurts you a little bit. It shows up in your work, your strength training, what you think you can do next year, and then you just want to apply it, and I think Tuitt’s done that”.
Although he missed one game this season due to Covid-19, this is the first season of his career since his rookie season, before he was a full-time starter, that Tuitt has remained healthy all year, and it has shown in his play.
“He’s a very strong and athletic, great player for us. It was only a matter of time before he was just gonna continue to keep coming out of his shell and keep dominating”, Heyward said. “He deserves a lot of credit for the work he put in during his rehab, and I’m proud of him”.
“That dude has come a long way”, he added, “and I understand all of the stuff that he does on the field. Not everybody does, but he has truly done an amazing job when you look at where he was two years ago to where he is now”.
Unfortunately, Tuitt wasn’t rewarded for his great season with Pro Bowl recognition, even though Heyward was, now having done so in four consecutive seasons. But while I’m sure he would appreciate the honor, I also have no doubt he’s more interested in a Lombardi Trophy, and that is the end toward which he is working.