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The Steelers will miss Stephon Tuitt against the Ravens

The Steelers defensive lineman will be missed on Tuesday.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Stephon Tuitt is having a career season. His seven sacks are already a career high, and he is 1 tackle for loss and 2 quarterback hits from tying his career highs in those marks. Tuitt’s 2 forced fumbles tie his career high. Stephon Tuitt has followed up a promising start to his 2019 season with the best season of his career so far.

But Tuitt isn’t just a player having a career season, he’s also been one of the Steelers biggest performers against the Baltimore Ravens.

Since 2015 Stephon Tuitt leads the Steelers in tackles for a loss, quarterback hits and solo tackles. Tuitt ranks 3rd in sacks as well. Of course, he’s played 9 games against the Ravens. Only Bud Dupree, Cameron Heyard and Vince Williams have played more in that span, but his per-game stats rival T.J. Watt, who has played 7 games against the Ravens.

In 9 games Tuitt has 12 QB hits (1.33 per game), 10 TFL (1.11), 36 solo tackles (4) and 4 sacks (0.44).
In 7 games T.J. Watt has 11 QB hits (1.57), 5 TFL (0.71), 26 solo tackles (3.71) and 3.5 sacks (0.5).

T.J Watt is among the elite edge rushers in the NFL, while Stephon Tuitt plays a position that doesn’t usually have great stat lines. Stephon Tuitt’s production against the Ravens is fantastic. And in his last two games against the Ravens, facing Lamar Jackson, he’s been a force to be reckoned with.

Week 8, 1st quarter, 12:59. Stephon Tuitt (#91) is the defensive tackle in the middle of the hashmarks.

That’s how you defend the Veer. Lamar Jackson has the option to hand the ball off to the running back or to keep it himself here. Neither is a good choice. T.J. Watt shows the Steelers defensive solution to Lamar Jackson, he goes right for Lamar no matter what. This is how the Ravens gashed the Steelers in week 17 last season, and they got a few good runs this way in week 8, but it was harder with Stephon Tuitt alongside T.J. Watt than it was with Javon Hargrave, who was never a great run stuffer.

Tuitt is fantastic on this play, splitting the double team before they even get hands on him and blowing up the run for a loss.

Week 8, 1st quarter, 0:57. Stephon Tuitt is the defensive tackle lined up on the hashmarks to the left side of the screen.

The Ravens are worried about Cameron Heyward and Bud Dupree (another Raven killer) on this play, and trust their guard to block Tuitt 1v1. With T.J. Watt behind him there’s no escape for Lamar Jackson when Tuitt breaks free into the pocket.

Week 8, 2nd quarter, 3:08. Stephon Tuitt is lined up across from #65 for the Ravens.

You can see T.J. Watt gunning for Lamar Jackson, and Tuitt doing a great job of holding his ground while maintaining control of two run lanes. The speed at which Tuitt goes from leaning to the right side of the guard to making a tackle on the left side is impressive. Tuitt gave up 2 yards of ground, and that’s all the yards this run play gained.

Week 8, 3rd quarter, 13:17. Stephon Tuitt is the defensive end to the left side of the screen.

The Ravens run a lot of outside zone, and Stephon Tuitt absolutely destroys it on this play. The key moments are his ability to anchor and move more slowly to screen left than his blocker wants, and his ability to make up ground on the running back and secure the tackle.

By controlling the movement, Tuitt prevents run lanes opening up behind him, and forces the back to run to his free arm. After that it is pure athleticism to bring down the runner.

Week 8, 3rd quarter, 0:10. Stephon Tuitt is the defensive end to the left side of the screen.

The Steelers do a great job of containing Lamar Jackson in the pocket, and when Jackson steps up, Tuitt sheds his block to record the sack. Contain, collapse, finish the play. great work here.

Week 8, 4th quarter, 0:52. Stephon Tuitt is the defensive tackle to the right side of the screen.

This is just a physical mismatch. The Ravens center is no match for Stephon Tuitt, and when Jackson steps up in the pocket to avoid Dupree and Watt Stephon Tuitt is right there.

Stephon Tuitt has recorded a lot of stuffed or negative yardage plays against the Lamar Jackson-led Ravens. That matters more against the Ravens than most teams. When facing the Steelers, the 2019 and 2020 Ravens convert third and fourth downs with 5 or fewer yards to go51.7% of the time, but distances greater than 5 yards only 25.6% of the time. 6 yards seems to be the important number, as 3rd and 4 or 5 they convert 35.7% of the time, while 6-7 yards falls to 26.7%. on plays of 8+ they convert 25%.

One tackle for a loss, one sack, or a forced incompletion often is the difference between 3rd and 3 and 3rd and 7. Stephon Tuitt, against the Ravens sets up drive ending plays frequently.

And it wasn’t just one game in 2020 either. In week 5 of 2019, the Steelers took the Ravens to overtime with Mason Rudolph at quarterback in a game where Stephon Tuitt led the team in solo tackles and run stops.

2019, week 5, 4th quarter, 7:05.

This play was almost a safety, and had the safety occurred, the Steelers likely would have beaten the Ravens. The story of this play is the young defenders celebrating before the whistle blows, and the Ravens end up pulling the runner out of the end zone, but the opportunity is set up by a great play from Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward, with Tuitt getting low to stuff Gus Edwards, and Heyward getting him high to keep him contained before he is pulled out of the way by an offensive lineman behind him (apparently a legal move).

2019 Week 5, overtime, 10:00. Stephon Tuitt is lined up across from the Ravens #73, Marshal Yanda.

Mike Tomlin chose to kick to the Ravens to start overtime, and his defense would reward their coach with a fantastic effort that ended with the Steelers offense in great field position, and it started with this run. Stephon Tuitt demolishes Marshal Yanda on this play, easily controlling him, then avoiding him on the ground to stuff the play.

If the Steelers play the Ravens at some point this week, it will be without Stephon Tuitt, who is currently on the Covid-19 reserved list. And while I really do hope the game doesn’t get postponed to week 18, it will be sad to have Stephon Tuitt miss another chance to dominate the Ravens.