What does it mean for an NFL player contract to be ‘good’, from a team’s perspective? A lot of factors can go into it, but the general idea is tied to getting value for what you’re paying, whether that’s on a $40 million-a-year deal for the best player in the game, or a $5 million-a-year deal for a really strong contributor.
Pro Football Focus recently put together an exercise highlighting the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ contracts for each team, and made the argument that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ five-year, $60 million contract with Stephon Tuitt was their best.
“Cameron Heyward is the interior defender with name recognition in Pittsburgh, and for good reason, but Stephon Tuitt is a star in his own right”, Brad Spielberger wrote at the time. “Since signing this extension in 2017, Tuitt has earned an 89.0 PFF grade (16th among interior defenders) with an 81.5 pass-rush grade (11th among interior defenders). His 29 tackles for loss or no gain also rank 11th among interior defenders, and his 170 pressures rank 10th”.
More recently, the outlet put together a list of the 32 best contracts in all of the NFL. On that list, Tuitt’s deal, which includes no more guaranteed money owed, ranked 26th. His was the only contract from Pittsburgh to make the list.
Tuitt originally signed the deal in 2017. While he has had some injury hurdles since then, he has also played some of his best football, including during the 2020 season, putting up the best numbers of his career, including a long-awaited season with double-digit sacks.
Playing in 15 games (he missed one due to COVID-19 protocols), he recorded 11 sacks, along with 45 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 25 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, and three batted passes. Over seven seasons, he now has 34.5 career sacks with 246 tackles, 48 for loss, 94 hits, six forced fumbles, 13 batted passes, and an interception.
His 778 snaps played in 2020 were the second-most in his career, trailing only his second season in 2015, during which he logged 873 snaps—a year in which the Steelers defense spent an awful lot of time on the field. He has only logged at least 700 snaps in a season three times, though he also came very close in 2018.
Still just 28 years old as he heads into his eighth season, Tuitt is still under contract for the next two years, but that means he will be due for a second extension next offseason. Cameron Heyward also received a second extension along the same point in time in his career.