With the 2022 NFL Draft now a few weeks away, the status of veteran defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt is becoming a more and more pressing topic for Pittsburgh Steelers fans wondering what their trenches are going to look like this year.
Tuitt missed the entire 2021 season, first not participating in the offseason program as an excused absence following the violent hit-and-run death of his younger brother. While working off to the side during training camp, he aggravated a knee injury that put him on the Reserve/Injured List, from which he would never return.
Members of the Steelers organization have addressed the topic of Tuitt several times this offseason, though they have always come short of giving a definitive answer, even if there has been plenty of optimism about him potentially playing.
When general manager Kevin Colbert talked about being comfortable with 24 of the 25 starting spots in the lineup during the annual league meeting, however, the 25th spot was strong safety, but he wasn’t necessarily counting on Tuitt.
“As of now Tuitt is on our team, but we also have Chris Wormley that started last year”, he told reporters then, according to Teresa Varley. “We’re hopeful (Stephon) can continue his career because he’s a significant player. In the meantime Wormley has filled that position and I qualify him as a starter as well”.
Wormley started 14 of 15 games last season, missing two late in the season. He recorded 51 tackles, including six for loss, along with seven sacks, 10 quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and three passes defensed, logging 729 snaps.
A former third-round draft pick out of Michigan by the Baltimore Ravens, Wormley was first acquired by the Steelers in 2020 via trade. He only played 148 snaps that season, the one year in Tuitt’s career in which he remained healthy, having a Pro Bowl-quality season.
Minus Tuitt, Wormley was clearly needed, but the defensive front seven was clearly lacking. The loss of Tyson Alualu, the slow return from injury for Devin Bush, and the lack of familiarity with the system from Joe Schobert were all contributing factors, among others, to the lack of quality in the run defense.
Of course, if they do get word from Tuitt that he’s not coming back, that doesn’t mean they’re just going to move forward with Wormley. The Steelers were also “comfortable” with Mason Rudolph, and then they signed Mitch Trubisky, and it sure sounds like they intend to draft another quarterback in the first round later this month.