Steelers teammates seem positive Stephon Tuitt will return in 2022

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt (91). Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt (91). Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers started OTAs and Stephon Tuitt was not in attendance, but here’s why some of his closest teammates are positive he will return.

I was cautiously optimistic that I would see Stephon Tuitt join his teammates at Pittsburgh Steelers OTAs beginning this week. Sadly, organized team activities began with players running through drills and Tuitt was nowhere to be found.

This was a bit disheartening. After missing the entire 2021 season grieving the loss of his brother and dealing with a lingering knee injury, I’ve been saying that Tuitt needed to be at OTAs and rejoin his teammates, but his absence from team activities is not encouraging.

Many of us were quick to rush to conclusions after seeing that Tuitt was a no-show, and fans took to social media to express their desire to move on from him. However, I wouldn’t give up hope of the talented defensive lineman returning just yet.

Though he didn’t elect to join his team for voluntary activities in Pittsburgh, a few of his closest teammates seemed quite positive that Tuitt would be returning this year. Some members of the media gathered quotes from Cameron Heyward and Tyson Alualu, here’s what Tuitt’s teammates had to say about his chances of returning, according to Steelers media members:

For those counting Stephon Tuitt out entirely, this is probably a breath of fresh air. Cameron Heyward’s words specifically sound very encouraging, saying, “He’ll be here sooner or later.”

Head coach Mike Tomlin made it very clear that he wasn’t currently concerned with Tuitt’s whereabouts. His focus was going to be on the players who did in fact show up to OTAs, and he felt like he would be doing them a disservice if his attention was elsewhere.

Steelers should have their answer by minicamp

Because Tuitt didn’t show up to the beginning of OTAs, I wouldn’t expect to see him for at least a few weeks, as OTAs will run through June 9th. From there, fans will be really anxious to see if he shows up to Steelers mandatory minicamp on June 14th-16th.

Unlike organized team activities, minicamp is required of all players on an NFL roster as part of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). This will be the real ticker. If Tuitt is still absent for the start of Steelers minicamp, this will likely mean the end of the road for Stephon Tuitt in Pittsburgh.

Prior to his extended absence during the 2021 season, Tuitt was very impressive during a breakout campaign in 2020 — earning 11.0 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss, and 25 QB hits, according to Pro Football Reference. His play in his final season rivaled that of All-Pro Cameron Heyward, and if he does decide to play, he should have plenty of juice left in the tank.

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Steelers fans should be ecstatic if Tuitt does indeed decide to return to the field. He was a top-five player on this team before 2021, for my money, and I think he’s the key to helping the league’s 32nd-ranked run defense from a season ago become a top unit once again.