Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot of personnel decisions ahead of the 2022 NFL season. With interviews currently going on for their open defensive coordinator position, the Steelers are also looking for a new general manager to hire following the 2022 NFL draft. Add in Ben Roethlisberger‘s retirement and the Steelers at least have to consider a possible move with the quarterback position. With the new league year and free agency period kicking off in the middle of March, there are a lot of things the Steelers have to consider.
But even with all these other issues going on with the Steelers, one of the biggest question marks going into next season has to be the availability of defensive end Stephon Tuitt. While it was assumed Tuitt was going to be available for the Steelers at the beginning of the 2021 regular season, he ended up not playing a single game and spent the entire season on the Reserve/Injured List.
With speculation running wild about whether it was Tuitt’s mental health after dealing with the tragic loss of his brother last offseason, or if it was the knee injury in which was reported, either way Stephon Tuitt was unable to take the field last season. But where does he stand for 2022?
In an interview with Pittsburgh media last week, Steelers president Art Rooney II brought up the issue of Tuitt‘s future with the Steelers. Rooney’s quote was reported by ESPN’s Brooke Pryor:
On Stephon Tuitt playing in 2022, Art Rooney II: "I wish I had an answer. We’ll be evaluating that situation. Having a discussion with Stephon in the next few weeks. Hopefully be able to say something more definitively in the future."— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) January 28, 2022
Currently the third highest salary cap hit for the Steelers in 2022 only behind T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward, Tuitt’s availability for next season may be the determining factor in a number of personnel moves. In what was believed to be the Steelers deepest position group going in the last season, the early injury to Tyson Alualu along with Tuitt’s absence made the defensive line a liability rather than a strength. Ranked last against the run in the NFL, the 17-game season made the Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 rush defense the unit they gave up more rushing yards than any other Steelers’ team in franchise history.
If Stephon Tuitt will be back with the Pittsburgh Steelers for 2022, coupled with Alualu‘s return, the Steelers defensive line could once again become a strength. With players such as Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk, and Montravius Adams (assuming he would re-sign in Pittsburgh) all gaining quality experience last season, the Steelers would have fantastic depth pieces moving forward. But if Stephon Tuitt does not return next season, the defensive line becomes an immediate need.
If Stephon Tuitt indicates to the Steelers that he will not be returning this season, the Steelers will have to decide if they want to dip into the free-agent market, the NFL draft, or both. Although the Steelers have a lot of players on the defensive line, both Heyward and Alualu are on the wrong side of 30 and the Steelers may continue I want to add youth to the position. But if Tuitt does not return, the Steelers will be looking to replace a starter rather than just add depth.
Like so many things in the offseason, Steelers fans will simply have to wait and see how things go moving forward with Stephon Tuitt. The last thing the Steelers need is another projected starter not being available following free agency and the draft when their options are limited. So hopefully the conversation between Tuitt and the Steelers happens soon enough for them to better shape their offseason plans.