Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: DL Stephon Tuitt
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Stephon Tuitt finally achieved the ‘breakout’ statistical season in 2020 that was long anticipated which we knew he was capable of producing, even if it was not ultimately recognized with post-season awards.
As far as talent goes, I think everybody knew when he was drafted that Stephon Tuitt was a steal in falling to the second round, where the Steelers were able to draft him after scooping up Ryan Shazier out of Ohio State in the first round.
What a great one-two hit that proved to be, if only both of them could have had the sort of health luck that would have allowed them to maximize their potential. In terms of talent, you can’t ask for much more than that from your top two draft picks. But I digress.
The issue with Tuitt has always been his actually reaching his potential, sometimes statistically, because he’s certainly had dominant stretches, but health and availability have hampered him. The 2020 season was the first year season his rookie year that he played at least 15 games, missing only one due to Covid-19.
And he produced, with 11 sacks, blowing away his previous career high of 6.5 set all the way back in 2015, along with 25 quarterback hits and 10 tackles for loss, also career highs. On top of that, he added two forced fumbles and three batted passes.
It was his most complete and consistent season of his career, with the biggest variable being the fact that it was also his healthiest, so it’s no surprise that it led to the sort of numbers the team believed he could produce when they signed him to a lucrative contract extension years ago.
Now the question is, can he keep it up? Cameron Heyward has maintained a high level of play since suffering a torn pectoral muscle at the same time that Tuitt also did in his career, so if he needs an example as a guide or motivation, then he already has one built in.