A couple of seasons ago I wrote an article about Steelers DE Stephon Tuitt after a particularly slow start to the 2018 NFL season. Tuitt hadn't registered a sack through the first five contests, and I half jokingly referred to him as the Invisible Man. I questioned his desire to be great and effort given. Admittedly I was frustrated because I knew Tuitt was capable of so much more than what he was showing on the field. To be fair, I wasn't giving Tuitt enough credit for his run defense and collapsing the pocket.
Tuitt went on to finish the 2018 season strong. Optimism was abundant that the 2019 season would finally be the breakout campaign for Tuitt all of Steelers Nation had been hoping for. Then a familiar foe blindsided Tuitt out of nowhere— the injury bug.
Tuitt was playing at a higher level last season before a pectoral injury ended the best start to a campaign of his NFL career after only six games. All signs pointed toward the long awaited breakout season prior to the disappointing injury. The consistency was evident, both in effort and impact. He seemed to accept a position of leadership that accompanies his established veteran status, willingly mentoring his younger teammates.
Tuitt and the Steelers find themselves in an optimal situation, considering the fact Tuitt is only 27 years old and undoubtedly just entering the prime of his career. He may just be the key component to the Steelers quest in becoming the most dominant defense in the NFL, but first he must display the ability to stay healthy. This subject seems to be a familiar refrain around the Steelers roster these days.
Tuitt has a tantalizing blend of size and strength. He utilizes his length, particularly his impressive wingspan, effectively to tie up blockers defending the running game and collapsing the pocket against the pass. He regularly ranks among the team leaders in QB pressures, confirming his ability to consistently impact the pass defense. If he can remain relatively healthy and on the field, coupled with a renewed focus to capitalize on the opportunities his talents create, a double-digit sack campaign isn't out of the question.
Tuitt teams with Cameron Heyward to provide the Steelers with a talented tandem along the defensive front line. The Steelers need both to play at the top of their abilities, along with an admirable ensemble of depth pieces, to minimize the significant loss of Javon Hargrave. Tuitt remaining healthy and on the field would go a long way toward mitigating the impact of the Gravedigger taking his talents to Philadelphia.
Tuitt is my nominee to have a breakout season for the Steelers defense this year, similar to Bud Dupree's breakout performance last season. I have heard Terrell Edmunds and Devin Bush being mentioned as candidates to take their games to the next level this season, and I fully expect both to display tremendous growth this year based on increased exposure and familiarity within the defense. However, I feel Tuitt is primed and ready for the long awaited breakout season as a player prepared to accept the personally applied pressure to be among the best at their position.