Stephon Tuitt’s status still a mystery as Steelers approach NFL Draft

Stephon Tuitt Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Stephon Tuitt Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

We are just days away from the 2022 NFL Draft, and we still don’t know if Stephon Tuitt will be playing for the Steelers this year. Here’s why it matters.

It’s an exciting time of the year for die-hard football fans. The NFL Draft is a time for many devoted fanatics to kick back their feet and watch in anticipation as Roger Goodell reads off each name at the podium.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been heavily invested in scouting the 2022 quarterback prospects and it seems very likely they could go in that direction early in the draft. In addition, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert seem somewhat interested in the top cornerback and safety prospects this year and either could be under-the-radar options with the 20th overall pick.

Lost in all of the draft buzz this year has been the pending status of Steelers defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt. According to reports early in the offseason, Tuitt has expressed interest to return to the team. However, it’s been months without any news and fans would like to hear confirmation one way or the other.

Most assume that, because we haven’t heard anything by now, Tuitt will be on the team in 2022. But that won’t necessarily be the case. Pittsburgh could still elect to part ways with Tuitt as a post-June 1st release — saving them over $9 million in cap space.

While we don’t know exactly what’s going with the Steelers and Tuitt, we just hope the organization knows whether or not he will be back prior to the kickoff of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Why Tuitt’s status matters for Steelers

When Tuitt failed to dress for a single game last season, it had major implications on the defense. Missing one of the NFL’s better interior run defenders (along with the loss of Tyson Alualu) led the Steelers to just the 32nd ranked run defense in terms of both yards surrendered and yards per attempt allowed.

Tuitt didn’t just offer this team a boost in run defense; he was a full-time player who got after the quarterback as well. In fact, he was playing at such a high level prior to the 2021 season that some argued he was outperforming All-Pro Cameron Heyward.

In 2020, Tuitt earned 45 tackles, 11.0 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss, 2 forced fumbles, and 25 quarterback hits in just 15 games, according to Pro Football Reference (he rested the final game of the season).

Getting a healthy Tuitt back would be monumental for this team. Still just 28 years old, Tuitt could pick up right where he left off as a nearly Pro Bowl-caliber defensive lineman. However, if he does not intend to return, this could really throw a curveball in Pittsburgh’s draft plans.

Sadly, it doesn’t appear that the Steelers have done their homework on the defensive lineman this year. Apart from attending Georgia’s Pro Day (that included Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt), Pittsburgh hasn’t put an emphasis on any of the day-two interior defenders. They didn’t even send a single representative out to UConn’s Pro Day to scout DT Travis Jones.

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Perhaps this means that the Steelers already know that Stephon Tuitt is indeed returning. If he doesn’t, the Steelers need to try to help fill his role in the NFL Draft, and they already missed out on some prospects in free agency.