Prior to the 2018 regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers came to terms with Stephon Tuitt for a very big second contract for the defensive lineman. What ensued in 2018 was a year where Tuitt was battling nagging injuries, and had an overall disappointing year.
While there have only been three games in the 2019 campaign, Tuitt has been a bright spot on an otherwise bleak 0-3 Steelers team.
Just look at his stats heading into a Week 4 tilt with the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football:
Weeks 1-3: 13 tackles, 5 TFL, 3.5 sacks
Compare these numbers, especially the sacks, to his entire 2018 season:
2018: 45 tackles, 7 TFL, 5.5 sacks
Tuitt is blazing a new trail for himself in 2019, and it couldn’t happen at a better time. Already on pace to shatter his career high in sacks (6.5), the Steelers needed someone along the defensive line to show some dominant traits, and Tuitt certainly falls into that category.
Javon Hargrave and Cameron Heyward have essentially been non-existent throughout the early goings of 2019, and it has been Tuitt who has picked up the slack. The problem with this is the team needs someone other than Tuitt to start making plays.
If you want to look into the logistics of Tuitt’s spike in performance, working alongside T.J. Watt certainly has to help. Watt has improved by leaps and bounds this year, although his statistics might not reflect it, and he is constantly drawing double teams. When two players have to go to Watt to keep him off the quarterback, it leaves Tuitt with a one-on-one, a situation he has taken advantage of thus far.
The fact Heyward is having to play alongside Bud Dupree could also be a reason why he hasn’t been as dynamic as in years past. Dupree rarely draws any extra attention from the offensive line, therefore it allows the left side of the line to double down on Heyward to prevent him from doing damage on any given play.
There are still a lot of kinks to be ironed out on this Steelers team, both on offense and defense, but if there is one player who has been a shining star on a dismal team, to date, it would certainly be Tuitt. Now the question remains, can he keep it up?