Steelers DL coach John Mitchell: 'I think (Tuitt) is a young Aaron Smith'

Joe Sargent

Rookie defensive end Stephon Tuitt will wear Aaron Smith's No. 91, but his play resembles that of the former Pro Bowler as well, according to defensive-line coach John Mitchell.

The uncharacteristic compliments continue.

After the Steelers drafted defensive end Stephon Tuitt out of Notre Dame in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, both John Mitchell and defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau gave compliments to Tuitt that most rookie defensive lineman don't receive right after the Steelers draft them. The lofty expectations for Tuitt only worsened when Mitchell was asked by Mike Prisuta of Steelers.com of who he'd compare Tuitt to.

I think he's a young Aaron Smith, probably a little better speed. From the lower body down he's strong. He can run. He has long arms. He can knock down a lot of passes. This guy in shape in the right frame of mind is a heck of a football player.

Tuitt, a 6-foot-5, 317-pound defensive end, looks to fill a void with the Steelers that hasn't been filled since Smith's play declined due to injury late in his career. The only proven commodity on the defensive line is defensive end Cameron Heyward who has only had one dominant season, and maybe even more so than linebacker, the Steelers have a lot of question marks on the defensive line. Nose tackle/defensive end Cam Thomas was signed in free agency, but if the Steelers are relying on him to start opposite Heyward, they are in trouble.

There is still the possibility that defensive end Brett Keisel could be re-signed, but he is far removed from his prime at the age of 35. However, Keisel would be a quality signing for Pittsburgh to bring in and help Tuitt along and be apart of the rotation at defensive end. And if needed, Keisel could come in and be a temporary starter, but there is still some concern there if Keisel were to start.

With not many other options to play opposite Heyward, Tuitt will have an opportunity early to take that spot.

But, even if Tuitt does win the starting defensive end job in camp, to say he'll be Aaron Smith in his rookie season is a bit unrealistic.

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