Which Steelers defender has the best skill set to replace Stephon Tuitt
By Tommy Jaggi
The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to be looking for someone to step into Stephon Tuitt’s role full-time, but who has the most similar skill set to replace him?
After seeing some light at the end of the tunnel for a Stephon Tuitt return in 2022, Pittsburgh Steelers fans were saddened to hear the talented defensive lineman officially announced his retirement from football.
Tuitt missed the entire 2021 season after dealing with the loss of his brother, and he expressed in his statement that it’s time to leave the game of football and pursue other things (he recently finished his degree from Notre Dame).
What’s tough for fans is knowing that Tuitt was entering the prime of his NFL career before he walked away. Following the 2020 season in which he earned 11.0 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss, and 23 quarterback hits, via Pro Football Reference, Tuitt was just a 27-year-old who looked like a potential All-Pro in the making.
Now that he is gone, the Steelers have a dilemma on their hands. Fortunately, they should be more prepared to deal with his absence than they were last year. If his long-term replacement is indeed already on the roster, who is it?
Who will replace Tuitt for Steelers?
A good guess is that it will be a ‘replacement by committee’ situation in 2022 with multiple players sharing his former role. However, knowing the Steelers, they are going to want to find one guy who can step up and be a cornerstone alongside Cameron Heyward (until his replacement will also need to be found a few years down the line).
Most would assume this is going to be Chris Wormley’s job, and you may not be wrong… at least for now. At 6’5 3/8” and roughly 300 pounds with long arms, Wormley has that build that Karl Dunbar looks for in his 5-technique defensive linemen in a 3-4 front.
Wormley also played pretty well last season — earning a respectable 69.3 grade to go with 7.0 sacks and 6 tackles for a loss. However, after watching him play five NFL seasons (the first three in Baltimore) I’m not convinced he’s the long-term solution. Wormley turns 29 years old early in the 2022 season, and I think he will eventually go back to being a quality rotational defensive lineman.
Third-round rookie DeMarvin Leal is also an option. However at 6’3 7/8” and 283 pounds, he’s not nearly as big as Tuitt (listed at 6’6” and 303 pounds), and his play style is more that of a penetrating 3-technique in sub-packages.
While he might be considered an underdog by many, I think Isaiahh Loudermilk is the player who might be given an audition year to fill Stephon Tuitt’s shoes. Loudermilk didn’t grade out well as a rookie, but he was more consistent down the stretch and showcased the ability to stack and shed at the line of scrimmage.
From a size standpoint, Loudermilk might be the most similar to Tuitt, and he certainly fits the bill of what the Steelers look for in a starting 3-4 defensive end:
Loudermilk also tested as an impressive athlete when compared to NFL interior defenders, according to his Relative Athletic Score. Additionally, he admitted to being up to 310 pounds after weighing in at a lean 274 pounds during his Wisconsin Pro Day last year.
Admittedly, the added weight may cause him to lose a step, but I would assume he would be much better for it at the end of the day. With his impressive combination of size, length, and athletic traits, Loudermilk has great developmental traits to become Tuitt’s eventual replacement.
This is assuming that he improves a lot as a player, obviously. Tuitt was a fantastic prospect coming out of Notre Dame in 2014 and it’s highly unlikely that any of his potential replacements will be as good as he was. I think Wormley still earns the most snaps of the bunch this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the plan was to have Loudermilk replace Stephon Tuitt down the line.