Injuries slowed down Stephon Tuitt early in 2013

Jonathan Daniel

Despite a strong finish to the season, Stephon Tuitt's stats failed to match his 2012 numbers after recovering from an offseason injury. After falling out of the first round, the Steelers picked up what could later prove to be a second round steal.

Stephon Tuitt's drop was the Steelers' gain.

Once considered a first round draft choice, Stephon Tuitt's draft stock hit a speed bump after it took about half of the 2013 season to recover from his offseason hernia surgery.

Tuitt's prolonged recovery led to his misleading decline in statistics from 2012. Tuitt tallied 12 sacks and 13 tackles for loss in '12 as compared to 7.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss in '13. He also forced three fumbles in '12 compared to just one in '13.

The 6'6'', 322 pound defensive linemen did finish the season on strong note that included a four-tackle, 1.5 sack effort in Notre Dame's win over Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Despite his late season surge, Tuitt was still available when the Steelers were up with the 46th pick in the draft. The Steelers-looking to improve their defensive line-gleefully snatched up the former Irish linemen that recorded 21.5 sacks in three seasons in South Bend.

The Steelers selection of Tuitt has received praise from many draft analysts that includes Mike Mayock, who broadcasted many of Tuitt's college games as NBC's color analyst for Notre Dame's home games.

"Boy does this pick make a lot of sense for Pittsburgh," Mayock said on NFL Network. "Remember Brett Keisel, who has played that position for the Steelers at a high level but will probably retire. Tuitt has first-round talent. He can play inside or outside. When healthy he's explosive. I've had an opportunity to watch this kid play at Notre Dame for the last three years. He can stack and shed to make a tackle."

The Steelers opportunistic acquisition of Tuitt is just another example of what has made them the model franchise in the NFL for so many years. It he does indeed realize his potential, the acquisition of Tuitt could be remembered as one of the best steals of the '14 draft for any team.

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