Loudermilk could be biggest benefactor of Stephon Tuitt’s retirement
By Tommy Jaggi
Stephon Tuitt’s retirement opens the door for other Steelers defensive linemen, and Isaiahh Loudermilk might be the biggest benefactor of all.
I don’t ever want to look at it as a positive thing when the Pittsburgh Steelers lose a player as talented as Stephon Tuitt. The fact of the matter is Tuitt was an excellent football player when healthy and available, and there may not be anyone on the roster that proves worthy of filling his shoes.
However, there are several players who could benefit from his retirement — players who would have otherwise served in a much smaller capacity on defense with the Steelers. One of those players is second-year defensive lineman, Isaiahh Loudermilk.
Loudermilk was a fifth-round draft choice in the 2021 NFL Draft. Though they had traded their original fifth-round selection away during the season, Pittsburgh traded a 2022 fourth-round pick to move back into the draft to select Loudermilk.
The decision to do so was met with a lot of criticism at the time, but with Tuitt missing the whole 2021 season and ultimately retiring, it looks like a much better move in hindsight. Now the former day-three draft choice could play a much bigger part on the Steelers than anyone anticipated.
Steelers may count on Loudermilk in a big role
Loudermilk played 29 percent of defensive snaps for the Steelers as a rookie, according to Pro Football Reference. Though he showed some promise, this is a number that almost certainly would have gone down had Stephon Tuitt returned.
Tuitt would have immediately resumed his role as the starter alongside Cameron Heyward while veteran Chris Wormley — who started in his absence — would have been the primary backup to both Tuitt and Heyward.
In addition, Tyson Alualu’s return would have muddied the waters for Loudermilk as well. Though Alualu plays nose tackle on base downs, the Steelers could have elected to turn to him more often than Loudermilk as the interior pass rusher in sub-packages.
This doesn’t even account for two other players who are sure to have roles on the Steelers defensive line in 2022: Motravius Adams and DeMarvin Leal. Adams was picked up late in the season after being released from the Saints. He started four of five games for Pittsburgh last year and did a decent job.
Leal, meanwhile, is the youngest of the group, but defensive line coach Karl Dunbar no doubt has a plan to get him involved early thanks to his quickness and bend as a pass rusher.
In short, it’s possible that Isaiahh Loudermilk could have been buried on the depth chart had Stephon Tuitt elected to come back to the Steelers this year. His retirement, however, opens the door for a massive opportunity.
Now Loudermilk’s biggest competition for playing time appears to be Chris Wormley. After Loudermilked weighed in at just 274 pounds at his Pro Day last year, he is now reportedly up to 310 pounds — and he carries it well.
At 6’6′ 3/8” and 310 lbs. with an 81 1/4” wingspan, Loudermilk fits a very similar size profile to Tuitt and he tested as a 79th percentile athlete when compared to interior defenders, according to his Relative Athletic Score.
It’s possible that Loudermilk and Leal could be auditioning to fill Tuitt’s role over the next season or two. With a year of experience under his belt, Loudermilk should have a great opportunity ahead of him.