Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth 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 have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into 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 reasoning. 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. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: DL Stephon Tuitt
Stock Value: Sold
Reasoning: Nine-year veteran defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt formally retired from the NFL yesterday, at the age of 29, on the one-year anniversary of his brother’s death.
This is, of course, the one I was hoping I wasn’t going to have to write. Not because I dreaded being wrong, but because the Steelers are so much better with Stephon Tuitt on the field. But that was not to be, the former second-round draft pick making the decision to hang it up and explore other avenues of his life.
Tuitt said in a statement issued through the team that, following the death of his younger brother, and his decision to complete his education at Notre Dame (graduating last month with Jerome Bettis), he felt that he was being called to move beyond the game of football.
That won’t remove his teammates from his life, but his removal from the field is an issue for this Steelers defensive front, which clearly missed him last year while he was on the Reserve/Injured List. He had a career year in 2020 with 11 sacks and seemed poised to be in his prime.
Now they must move on with Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk, DeMarvin Leal, and Montravius Adams piecing together what they lack in Tuitt’s absence, combined with the stalwarts, Cameron Heyward and Tyson Alualu, returning to the starting lineup.
The big man was fully expected to play last season. The team restructured his contract in August, and they held him on the initial 53-man roster so that they could place him on the Reserve/Injured List with a return designation.
Tuitt had knee surgery in early September, and it was generally expected that his recovery time might take about two months or so. We never even got confirmation from the team, however, that he even had that knee surgery, even though he told Stan Savran that—while aided by a crutch—in about mid-September, during which he expressed his belief that he would be back on the field in a matter of weeks.
Whatever happened after that is anybody’s guess. Heyward yesterday told reporters that Tuitt had told him he was about 50/50, split upon whether or not he was going to return to football this year. I believe he genuinely weighed the decision for these many months. But he’s made it now, and it’s time for all to begin to move on.