The Steelers team has already gone through several ups-and-downs just five weeks into the NFL season. The same can certainly be said for the defense that’s supposed to be one of the best in football.
The defensive unit has shown those flashes, particularly in Week 1 against the potent Bills offense when mostly healthy, but has also shown flaws along the way. The run defense hasn’t been as dominant as we’ve become accustomed to the past few years and it starts with a few injuries up front. At first glance, things look alright with the Steelers being ninth in football in both rushing yards allowed (502) and yards-per-carry (4.0) while allowing just one rushing touchdown. They have allowed 237 rushing yards though the last two weeks, a bit higher than their averages.
The Steelers have been without Tyson Alualu after he fractured his ankle in Week 2 against the Raiders, and it remains to be seen if he will return this season. The team has also been missing one of their core leaders and elite contributors all season though in Stephon Tuitt. Tuitt’s absence has been a factor in the run defense not doing as well. Captain Cameron Heyward talked about seeing Tuitt running around a bit at practice.
”I’m hopeful man. We all want him back and I think he’s progressing in the right way,” Heyward said Thursday to media. “We’ll wait until he’s ready.”
Tuitt has established himself as one of the premier defensive linemen in football when healthy. Drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, the 28-year-old enjoyed a career year in 2020, racking up 11 sacks in 15 games.
His missed presence goes beyond the on-field performance though, as Heyward talked more about Tuitt as a leader of this team.
”It means a lot [seeing Tuitt out here]. We have a lot of younger guys that not only want to pick my brain, but want to pick his or Tyson Alualu’s. Having those guys who have experience goes a long way. There’s a difference between seeing the X’s and O’s and seeing guys who’ve played it before. Having him back out on the field [and] in the classroom is huge for us.”
As mentioned yesterday, Tuitt is likely still awhile away from returning in-game for the Steelers. He still hasn’t been activated off the Reserved/Injured list which opens up a 21-day window for him to return. After a difficult off-season for Tuitt personally, he had surgery on his knee due to ongoing issues. Whenever Tuitt does return, it will be a welcomed sight for the Steelers defense.