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Steelers Film Room: The Steelers defense gets more athletic

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The Pittsburgh Steelers get a versatile and powerful defensive end to add to the retooling of their defense.

Stephon Tuitt is a prototypical 5 technique defensive end.  What is exciting about this pick is that Tuitt should be able to step in and contribute right away.  This first clip is an example why.

3-4 defensive ends do not line up in track stances and explode off of the ball like a sprinter coming out of the blocks.  Instead, Steeler defensive ends oftentimes throw their hands and hips forward,  This allows them to play the gap inside of them and outside of them.  To play this technique, you have to be powerful.  Tuitt is certainly that. Moreover, he has extremely heavy hands.  You often see Tuitt "rag doll" the offensive lineman as you see on this clip.  Tuitt is a stout man, and he shows it on the next clip.

Tuitt shows two things here: awareness and power.  Awareness is something that Ziggy Hood really struggled with, and I wrote about his struggles.  Because Hood never seemed to "get it" his power and explosiveness never really came through on film.  It is one thing to be a strong athlete, it is another thing to play like one.

Tuitt is never going to lead the NFL in sacks.  He is not a quick-twitch guy.  But, Tuitt is an athlete.  A drill that every defensive line coach in the NFL does is the figure 8 drill.  The drill is exactly what it sounds like.  You make the player run in a figure 8 pattern.  What you want to see is if the defensive lineman can dip his inside shoulder and turn the corner.  If I am lining up on the outside shoulder of an offensive tackle, it is not a straight line to the quarterback.

Sounds easy, but if you are nearly 6-foot-6 inches tall and over 300 pounds, you often have stiff ankles and hips.  Watch Tuitt on this play:

Inches count in football.  You have to run this stunt as tight as possible.  The inches that you can gain by being athletic could be the difference between a sack and a completion.  Tuitt runs this T-E stunt well.  Under the tutelage on John Mitchell, I expect Tuitt to get even better with his pad level.  But, the ability is there.

As Neal wrote in his original breakdown of Tuitt, ND played him all over the place.  As I mentioned, he will not lead the league in sacks, but he had over 20 while playing in college.  He has the potential, and the Steelers have the luxury of having a coach that is known for getting the most out of his players.