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With Bell, Villanueva and Brown out of the way, the Steelers now focus on extending Stephon Tuitt

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The Pittsburgh Steelers turn their financial focus on trying to extend a key member of the team’s defense.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

When the 2014 NFL Draft was approaching, a young stud defensive lineman out of Notre Dame named Stephon Tuitt was pegged to be a first round draft pick. Most would agree it was a foot injury which drove him to the second round, and directly into the laps of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Day 2.

The Steelers left the draft thinking they just escaped with two first round players after selecting Ryan Shazier in the first, and Tuitt in the second. It is hard to believe, but this particular draft class is entering their final year of their rookie contracts.

For Shazier, the team picked up his 5th year option paying him handsomely through the 2018 season, but Tuitt is about to enter a contract year. And the Steelers are trying to make sure he never even sniffs the free agent market.

When most people listed the players who needed new contracts entering the 2017 offseason, the list would have read: Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Alejandro Villanueva and Stephon Tuitt, in no particular order. To recap, Bell and the team couldn’t find middle ground on a new deal, and he will play 2017 under the franchise tag. Brown was given a well-deserved extension, as was Villanueva prior to training camp. Even Mike Tomlin was given a two-year extension to stay in the Steel City until 2020.

That leaves just Tuitt still looking for his pay day, and the Steelers, per OvertheCap.com, have $12,554,116 in cap space remaining to sign him. That seems to be more than enough to give Tuitt a nice extension, with a hefty signing bonus to keep him in Pittsburgh for years to come.

As most know, the Steelers never handle contract business during the season, so Tuitt’s window to cash in is closing quickly. However, that doesn’t mean a deal won’t get done at the final hour. Fans might remember Troy Polamalu signing a deal before boarding a plane before a week one game. In other words, there is time, but it is running out.

If the team can keep Tuitt from reaching free agency, it would lock up their defensive front, combined with Javon Hargrave and Cameron Heyward, for the foreseeable future, and would be the cornerstone which the defense can continue to be built.