Steelers Coach John Mitchell Says He’s Not Going To Rush Rookie DE Stephon Tuitt

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell might see a lot of Aaron Smith in rookie defensive end Stephon Tuitt, but after three weeks of OTA practices and two mandatory minicamp practices, he’s certainly not expecting him play like him right out of the chute.

“I really like where Tuitt is. I want people to realize this guy is going to be a senior this year,” said Mitchell. “All these people are going to be expecting great things, I’m not expecting that. I’m expecting him to play like a senior in college. As he grows he’s going to be a good football player and he’s going to play here for a long time.”

As expected, Mitchell still has a lot to teach Tuitt and it sounds like he will bring him along slowly just as he did most recently with Cameron Heyward.

“I’m going to play him as much as I can. We’re not going to rush him,” said the Steelers longtime defensive line coach of the Notre Dame product. “I don’t care if he’s a first- or second-round draft choice. When he’s ready to play and we can play him in certain situations I’m going to put him in the ballgame. The worst thing you want to happen to a good player who is going to be good down the road, he loses confidence because he goes in the game when he’s not ready to play.

“We’re not going to rush this kid in there. When he’s ready to play and we feel he can help this team, that’s when we’re going to play him.”

Over the course of the offseason practices, Tuitt has reportedly been working with the second-team defense and there’s no reason to think that will change when the team arrives in Latrobe for training camp next month. For now, Heyward and newcomer Cam Thomas are the starters at defensive end.

As for Thomas, who was signed as free agent during the offseason after spending his first four seasons in the league with the San Diego Chargers, Mitchell sounds like he’s happy with what he’s seen out of him so far.

“Cam’s a good football player, he’s a good technician and he’s going to help us,” said Mitchell. “He’s a veteran ballplayer, he knows what it takes to win and he wants to win.”

With the mandatory minicamp now almost over, you still have to wonder if Brett Keisel will brought back between now and the start of training camp. It’s obvious that Mitchell doesn’t want to rush Tuitt along and while he thinks Thomas can indeed help in 2014, you really have to wonder how much confidence the team has in him as a starter.

If Keisel is willing to take a one-year qualifying contract for the minimum to return for one last hurrah, I still think the Steelers would be best served to sign him and play him until his wheels come all of the way off.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Ahh heck, with future hall of famers like Brian Arnfelt, Cam Thomas and Nick Williams on the team, its easy to see why time is their friend.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Hey Dave I read your post on Cam Thomas when he was signed by the Steelers. He was playing NT and he didn’t look good on one play he got pushed almost 5 to 7 yards downfield. Since it sounds like were stuck with him as a starter Is there any chance that he’s better suited playing DE instead of NT? Do you think Coach Mitchell can help him improve wherever he plays on the D Line this year?

  • SteelersDepot

    I’m still scared of him playing a lot of DE as well.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Seriously. I love Coach Mitchell but I think sometimes he’s blinded as to how “average” his current “experienced” starters are while he’s “waiting” for his stars to “develop”. (sorry for the quotes but i feel they were necessary)

    How much did our profit by having Heyward sit behind Hood all those years. Or even hanging on to an ailing Aaron Smith.

    There are a lot of “college seniors” who are better NFL players on day one than some of their veteran teammates.

    I say just let them compete. Let the best man win. If it’s a rookie… great. If it’s a veteran… that’s fine too. Don’t pre-judge them.

  • Rupert

    Sure hope he comes up to speed quickly! I have very little faith in Cam Thomas. He seems to be slow and inconsistent with his leverage IMO. I hope I’m wrong but that side could be a weakness exploited.

  • I’m excited about the positive reviews coach Mitchell has for Tuitt. It’s really a shame we used a first rounder on Hood. I think one can safely call that a wasted pick. And with so many unproven commodities at DE and OLB, I’d really like to see them bring back some Diesel and some Deebo. It’s not even a sentimental type of thing. They both would bolster the depth and provide good leadership for one more year, steering the young guys down the right path.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Should we read anything into them moving Heyward over to Kiesel’s old spot? Does that mean we have seen the last of the beard? Keeping my fingers crossed that Tuitt becomes a training camp stud and takes that starting spot from Thomas

  • steelant

    just start him he a projected DE cam thomas never played DE a day in his nfl career

  • Crowned

    Nothing pisses me off more than this. Throw him into the fire and see what he does. We need someone to step up, give him his fair share of first team reps.

  • Steve

    Many players were thrown into the fire too soon and were burnt. This is a good situation Tuitt is in.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I appreciate everyone wanting Harrison and Keisel back, but IMO they do nothing but stunt the growth of the young ones or take up spots which may be better suited to someone who can play special teams.

    With Heyward’s move to Keisel’s old spot, which is where he should be anyway, that leaves 1 DE spot behind him on that side. Not a lot of snaps where Heyward is coming off the field. Thomas is a stop gap, nothing more. Any sub type snaps which come from that side, need to go to Tuitt for the experience. You hope by the end of the year, those roles are reversed Tuitt with the majority of the snaps and Thomas taking the sub snaps and becoming the swing DE/DT.

    With Harrison’s spot: Jones, Worilds, and Moats are going to get the majority of the snaps. Carter/So’oto may only get 100 total snaps on D, but will probably get that same quantity on special teams. Can Harrison play those special team snaps and help the team as much as Carter currently can? I honestly don’t think so.

  • Jacque Strappe

    I think it’s going to be a situation this season where as the season progresses, we see more and more of Tuitt and less and less of Thomas. That’s the best case scenario for him IMO.

  • Justin Barlow

    This is great to hear that hes gotta earn it and everything, but lets face it… hes the guy… gotta put that talent to work now

  • gene mann

    this is why i fully expect 99 to return

  • Virdin Barzey

    Cam Heyward = 2014 ProBowl

    Its time to get it done son.

  • Dan

    Oh c’mon, Kirkland’s been retired for years.

  • joed32

    I like Thomas more than some here do, he has a lot of experience as a 2 gap player and will be OK vs the run. Bring Tuitt in on passing downs and let him get his feet wet and then start him when he’s ready. It took Mitchell 3 years to start Heyward and that’s way to long.

  • steeltown

    No surprise.

  • steeltown

    Im all for Keisel coming back for one more year, but at whose expense? If we keep 7DL this season then it makes even more sense.

  • cp72

    I like Keisel as a nickel rusher playing 10-15 snaps per game. Let Thomas be the run stuffer until Tuitt is ready.


    I’m bittersweet on it b/c I think 7 DL is the # they will bring into Sept….if they keep 8 I see no problem bringing Brett back for one more yr.

    According to the article…Thomas is the starting LDE, with McLendon NT and Heyward RDE completing the DL starting spots…I thought Thomas was going to play NT and split time with McLendon…you strip away the guys that are probably not going to make it…still a lot of youth remaining for the reserves.

    FWIW… has the depth chart looking like this behind them

    2nd string

    RDE…N Williams

    3rd string


    3 rookies are probably not going to make the 53, but if Brett is in the picture…I assume Thomas would move to 2nd string NT, and McCullers to the PS.

  • steeltown

    Im thinking 7DL at this point. If McCullers shows anything he should push Fangupo off the roster. Also, there’s no reason to think N.Williams is ahead of Arnfelt or will end up ahead of him, not yet anyway, especially considering how much more practice time and workout Arnfelt has under his belt while Williams has been recovering from major injury over the last year.


    Idk anything, but I don’t see Fang making it period.

    I think Nick is going to have a tough time making it with the knee as well but I do feel as if they like him.

    But back to 7…if they go that route and Brett is a part of it, McCullers (if they plan on him playing NT) doesn’t have a spot imo b/c McLendon and Thomas will man that spot and Arnfelt can slide in behind Brett.

  • steeltown


  • Rupert

    I haven’t watched a lot of tape so I’ll take your word on it. What little I saw was very underwhelming. Mitchell says Thomas is quick so maybe I’m missing something. I’ll continue to be cautiously hopeful.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    This is how I see it as well. Barring injuries…

    Heyward – McClendon – Tuitt (starters)

    (Yes I realize Tuitt probably won’t start day one but should be starting by mid-season)

    Thomas (1st back up) (at both DE and NT)
    McCullers (back up NT)
    Arnfelt (back up DE)

    Those are your top 6 guys moving FORWARD. So who is your 7th? I expect good things from Mauro. Maybe even better than Arnfelt. I want to expect good things from Nick Williams. One of those guys SHOULD get the spot.

    The problem is, sometimes it’s hard to get the baby (Mitchell) off the bottle (Keisel). There’s a comfort there.

    I personally would rather move on from Keisel. Between Thomas/Arnfelt/Tuitt we should be okay. And if someone gets hurt we can always bring Keisel in mid-season.

  • Ike Evans

    I think.that has more to do with jarvis being on that side then anythin else

  • Douglas Andrews

    Give credit to the Steelers Coaches for creating some advantages for the Defense and help for J Jones on that side. It makes sense Worilds can hold the point of attack against the run and who knows maybe Cam Thomas shows something at LDE. Not sure if the Beard could play at LDE and your not going to spell Heyward much in a game so i’m still thinking we might have seen the last of him.