Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt finally put all of the speculation to bed on Wednesday by officially announcing his retirement from the NFL.
The announcement came on the heels of a year-long guessing game involving the eight-year vet from Notre Dame and whether he was ever coming back, whether he was absent because of the tragic death of his brother, and whether he had a serious knee injury.
We still don’t truly know why Tuitt missed all of the 2021 campaign, and I’m totally fine with that. I’m a facts-based individual, and I know that Tuitt will not be a Pittsburgh Steeler in 2022 and beyond. I also knew Tuitt wasn’t around to play for the Steelers in 2021, and I was aware of this because of his absence on the field.
No further explanation was needed, and that’s mainly because it was never any of my business.
I never felt that Tuitt or the Steelers owed me any answers regarding the former’s personal issues. I cheer for the Pittsburgh Steelers, not Stephon Tuitt (at least not solely), and when it comes to that, the organization’s only real responsibility to me is to field a 53-man roster each and every Sunday (or Monday, Thursday or Saturday).
And I’m not even sure they owe me that. I decided on my own to cheer for the Steelers many years ago. It’s not like they came knocking on my door and relentlessly recruited me until I bought season tickets. I’ve never had season tickets, and even if I did, that would be on me. I could give them up at any moment
Back to Tuitt. You know why I’m confident in saying that his personal reasons for not playing for the Steelers last year were truly none of my business? Because I began to see the lists pop up all over social media of the available free-agent defensive linemen the Steelers could then pursue immediately after Tuitt made his decision on Wednesday. I saw the articles about the salary cap and how the team saved so much more money because Tuitt made his decision on June 1. Entire radio segments and podcasts were dedicated to how Tuitt’s retirement would affect the Steelers moving forward.
Again, I was fine with all of it.
It’s like what Terry Bradshaw once said about his relationship with Steelers fans AFTER he became a Super Bowl-winning quarterback: “‘We love you, Terry!’ You don’t love me. You love winning that game out there. AS you should.”
While many bonds have been formed over the years between the players and the fans, at the end of the day, the NFL is still a revolving door where players come and go—season after season and decade after decade.
We obviously care about the welfare and well-being of the players, but it’s still mostly about what takes place on the field. How can these guys help the Steelers? What can the Steelers do to entertain us every week?
I’m not sure I can justify worrying about anything that happens away from the field, especially if it’s truly a personal issue for a player.
If the Steelers decided to pay Tuitt’s full salary while he sat out all of 2021 for personal reasons, that’s between them and their employee. I can’t sit here and demand answers to that side of the football business. Besides that, I learned a long time ago that the Steelers wouldn’t give me the answers even if I demanded them.
I also learned a long time ago that the second a Steeler player suffers a career-ending injury, a career-ending illness or is simply shown the door because he is no longer considered good enough, the conversation almost immediately shifts to what the Steelers can do to fill the void.
That’s life as a professional athlete. That’s life as a fan of professional sports.
A player doesn’t need to tell us why he isn’t on the field, and the fans don’t need to emotionally stick around for that player once he hangs up his cleats for good.