If the Pittsburgh Steelers have one position group that is a true area of strength for their team, then it has to be their defensive line. That front four consists of two players who have become annual Pro Bowlers, and two others who are or have been on the cusp of being Pro Bowlers in their own right.
It’s because of players like T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Bud Dupree, and Stephon Tuitt that the Steelers have led the NFL in sacks in each of the past four seasons, and have totaled more than 50 sacks in each of those years to boot.
Heyward is the grizzly veteran of that group, having just completed his 10th season, and he is under contract for four more, so he has seen a lot over the course of the past decade, and intends to see plenty more. He understands how special this group is, and particularly what they have done in the past two years.
“Stephon Tuitt really had a great year”, he said of his fellow interior rusher, in an exclusive interview with Missi Matthews for the team’s website on Wednesday. “Coming off of injury, not having the offseason to help you get ready for the season, and then dominating the way he did throughout the year, was unbelievable”.
Tuitt suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the sixth game of the 2019 season, at which point he looked like he was prepared to break out for a career year. Instead, he came back from the injury to have that career year, which included 11 sacks.
But of course, as is the case with most teams, so much of the pass rush comes from the edges, and that’s where Watt shines, with 29.5 sacks over the course of the past two seasons, and a couple of first-team All-Pro nods as well. Dupree has nearly 20 sacks in that span as well, even after missing about a third of the 2020 season.
“I also think T.J. took his game to another level. T.J. has grown every year in this game”, Heyward said of his front four guys. “I’m just appreciative of those guys. I get to see those guys work day in and day out. And then my other running mate, Bud Dupree. I know he didn’t finish the season out like he wanted to, but to have those three guys on my line were unbelievable”.
Tuitt is under contract for another two seasons, and obviously, the Steelers are going to get a huge deal done with Watt. Unfortunately, Dupree is an unrestricted free agent, and even coming off of a torn ACL, it’s difficult to envision a realistic scenario in which they’re able to keep him. But those three alone will be a terror for opposing offensive lines for at least the next couple of years still.