With 9 days to go until the start of training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers, we continue our 30 predictions in 30 days series with another bold claim for 2019.
Alternating daily between myself and BTSC Editor Jeff Hartman, we will offer our forecasts for the upcoming season. Some will be team oriented, while others will be specific to individual players. Posing an argument for and against our predictions, we invite you to weigh in on the debate as well.
Following on from Jeff’s claim that Sean Davis will set career highs in interceptions and tackles in 2019, I turn my attention toward one of his teammates on defense.
Prediction: Defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt will make his first Pro Bowl in 2019
Why it will happen: As the third most expensive player on the roster in terms of his salary cap hit in 2019, it would be fair to question whether the Steelers are getting value from Stephon Tuitt as he prepares for his sixth season in the NFL. But if the defensive lineman can finally deliver on the promise that prompted Pittsburgh to make him the fourth highest paid player at his position in 2017, the former Notre Dame product could yet make his first trip to the Pro Bowl this year.
Hampered by injuries in each of the last four seasons, Tuitt will need to avoid some of the issues that have sidelined him in the past if he is to have the breakout season envisaged here. However, there can be little doubt that he has the talent to put up Pro Bowl worthy numbers if he can play at a consistently high level through all 16 games.
While one of the team’s more proficient tacklers, Tuitt has struggled to put up the sack totals that would bring him national attention. But with a stronger secondary behind him, the defensive lineman may finally get enough time to record a few more takedowns with help from a group of defensive backs able to provide some actual coverage for a change.
Stephon Tuitt generated the highest tackling grade among interior defenders last season! pic.twitter.com/2sHd2CooyV— PFF (@PFF) June 25, 2019
A strong third season from the emerging T.J. Watt should also reduce the amount of double teams he sees as the protection focuses more on the outside linebacker. The continued improvement of Javon Hargrave at defensive tackle should also help. Surrounded by two young talents in Watt and Hargrave and with rookie Devin Bush lined up behind him, Tuitt might find himself the beneficiary of a lot less attention in 2019.
Why it won’t happen: It took fellow defensive lineman Cameron Heyward seven years to make his first Pro Bowl after recording 12 sacks in 2017, and even then he did not find his way onto the AFC roster until other players had pulled out.
With a much lower profile outside of Pittsburgh, Tuitt will need to have an exceptional season to catch the eye of the national media and fans of other teams. With the Pro Bowl voting nothing more than a popularity contest these days, Tuitt would have to go above and beyond to get his name in the conversation in 2019.
If he cannot remain injury free, putting up the sacks numbers required will be challenging. And with T.J. Watt playing alongside him, the young linebacker could eat into his totals. If the coaching staff decides to use Tuitt to draw the attention of the offensive lineman in an effort to free up Watt, he will suffer even more statistically. The prospect of Hargrave coming off the bench to spell him should also be a concern as his young teammate continues to develop and figures to see increased playing time this season.
What are your thoughts on this prediction? Do you think it will happen? Or are we crazy? Let us know by voting in the poll, and letting your voice be heard in the comment section below!
Will Stephon Tuitt make his first Pro Bowl in 2019?
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