Steelers John Mitchell On Rookie DE Stephon Tuitt: ‘I Think He’s A Young Aaron Smith’

Through the first six OTA practices, there haven’t been too many media reports about rookie Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt. The lack of reports, however, mean nothing, as the only thing that really matters is what the coaches think of the Notre Dame product.

So far, it sounds like defensive line coach John Mitchell likes what he’s seen out of Tuitt.

“I think he’s a young Aaron Smith, probably a little better speed,” said Mitchell, according to “From the lower body down he’s strong. He can run. He has long arms. He can knock down a lot of passes. This guy in shape in the right frame of mind is a heck of a football player.”

For Mitchell to call Tuitt a young Aaron Smith just six practices into the offseason says quite a bit about the second-round draft pick. Smith played 13 seasons in the league with the Steelers and became a full-time starter in just his second season. Over the course of his career he recorded 44 sacks, 408 tackles and seven forced fumbles.

Tuitt appears to be a humble and soft spoken kid and outside of him wearing Smith’s old No. 91, I doubt you’ll catch him comparing himself to him. Nonetheless, it’s nice to hear that Mitchell feels compelled to throw around such lofty praise. Let’s hope that the rookie can continue to live up to it.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    We need to be patient and hope that he sees the field some this year getting his feet wet. If he learns well he should easily be starting next year. Anything sooner is a bonus. I would not mind seeing a little of Arnfelt on the field as well as I would like to know that he and nick Williams will be capable backups in the future, which indeed looks bright.

  • shawn

    Something just feels right about this kid … It would not surprise me if when all is said and done he surpasses Aaron’s #’s …

  • Brendon Glad

    That was the first thing I noticed about him before the draft when watching his highlight tape. At least at that level, that was the first name that came to mind because their bodies and movements appeared so similar. So I’m hoping he can continue to develop and resemble Smith in the pros too.

  • cencalsteeler

    I agree Shawn. I’ve been patiently waiting for some press on Stephon, but he seems to be lost in the hype of the other draft picks. He just might be the one who impresses the most when it’s all said and done.

  • Aric Brown

    I believe I can speak for the entirety of Steeler Nation in saying We’ll take a young Aaron Smith

  • Douglas Andrews

    Coach Mitchell always tempers the excitement about rookies in general. So for him to give Tuitt such praise as being a younger faster version of Aaron Smith is saying a lot. Funny how things change our D line went from so so with a few young players to one that on paper looks pretty good along with some depth this year.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Is this the Steelers we’re talking about? I’m not used to our coaches lavishing praise on unproven rookies like this? First Shazier now Tuitt?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to hear it. It’s just very unusual.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Beat me to it.

    I think Tuitt was the most important pick in our draft. For many reasons.

    1) We had a huge gaping hole at that position. I think losing both Hood and Woods caught our front office by surprise. This pick bailed us out.

    2) People talk about Shazier starting from day one. I think Tuitt is in the exact same boat. He’s a first round talent that slipped to the second. Not saying he will play every single snap. There will be a rotation. But he should definitely be getting first team reps. Sooner rather than later.

    3) He fits our scheme PERFECTLY. He is able to play DE in base or DT in dime. He demands a double team. He has a great anchor but he can also run. Keeps his feet well. Sheds blocks well. And can collapse the pocket.

    4) He opens up plays for our LB’s (which is the key to our whole defense). Timmons and Shazier both struggle with fighting through blocks/traffic. If they can run free their production will skyrocket. This one pick literally helps three positions.

  • Garrett Hunt

    Who’s the depth?

  • RedCarpetDefense

    Much has been said heralding the prowess of Steelers’ linebackers over the decades. Such praise is/was mostly due to the terrific defensive lineman play that allow the LBs to make such a visible impact. It’s exciting to think that this team may be on the cusp of fielding a DL as those that were largely responsible for making Steelers defenses great thus becoming part of the valuable equation towards being champions.

    I may need to change my screen name should that be the case.

  • Virdin Barzey

    I love the way Aaron Smith played and in my book, he is a first ballot HOF though they won’t give it to him. Excited about Tuitt and respect Mitchell but its way to early to be making those comparisons. Never liked Ziggy Hood and we were sold that he could be every bit as good as Aaron. Hmmmm. So call me pessimistic if I’m not as excited about these comments. I’ll wait until Gameday and a few game tapes for me to get excited

  • Rosco

    5) He should have easily been a 1st rder!! A steal in the 2nd

  • Rosco

    My bad you wrote that already

  • Ike Evans

    Whoa….thats a big statement

  • Ike Evans

    Mitchell usually says whats real
    Said watch out for steve mclendon 2 years ago
    Said they gotta find a way to give heyward more snaps when he was backin ziggy up again 2 years ago
    Said nick williams would be a project at best
    Said arnfelt would stick
    Said cam thomas would bring some versatility (and thats really all he said lol aka hes a backup)

    So i believe him….i agree completely

  • steelster

    I hope he develops faster than heyward did.

  • Comparing him to Smith already? This guy has a LOT to prove before I’ll go there.

  • Luke Shabro

    On point 3 I believe the dime will be absolutely nasty if you have Cam and Tuitt on the line, all 4 LBs in here and bring in an extra DB.

  • Angel Navarro

    Shazier never has played with Timmons so we don’t know that as yet.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Nothing wrong with comparing a young Tuitt to a young A Smith. It’s not like he’s comparing him to Smith in his prime.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Mitchell is a pretty intelligent knowledgeable guy and like you said he does give the honest truth. That heads up on McClendon was spot on. Wish we could get more interviews from Mitchell. As much as I like his football mind the dude is awfully entertaining

  • TBone

    Oh .. I predict you will most definitely see him playing in games this year … he is not a talent to be sitting on someones side line. I think it is part of Pittsburgh’s new defensive mode. More switch out’s and fresh feet on the ground. 21 plus solo sacks last year for ND. I look for him on 3rd downs .. closing up that inside, preventing the run allows Troy to float around and prevent that quick out screen pass.

  • STOP IT!!! this kid hasn’t played a down yet! all you are doing is setting him up to fail not matter how well he plays…

  • steelster

    how? Shawn is just taking a guess and nothing more.

  • That would be the nickle, not the dime package.


    Good analysis, “S cubed.”



  • Weiss Chad

    I don’t think Shawn is setting Tuitt up to fail

  • Like I said….He’s got a LOT to prove before I’ll go there.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Why? Smith didn’t exactly light it up in his rookie season…


    At least now we will know who to blame if Tuitt doesn’t work out.

  • IckyD

    That’s a lot to live up to…

  • IckyD

    I hope Arnfelt doesn’t get overlooked. He’s a perfect rotation-guy at the inside DL spots.

  • IckyD

    A lot more passing in the league now, too.

    Aaron played a LOT of run downs…not exactly stat-builders.

  • IckyD

    Wonder how much of this Tuitt reads?

  • IckyD

    I think Vince Williams will give Shazier a run for his money….

  • IckyD

    Ziggy was very, very, very……OK.

    Highly average in the NFL is totally acceptable, but he didn’t seem to have the fire our defense needed after the SBers left.

  • IckyD


    The fact that Cam Heyward is getting steadily more and more outstanding at his game is worth waiting for…

  • steelster

    I doubt it. Shazier is already running with the first team and has way more talent than Williams.

  • steelster

    The faster Tuitt develops it will help Jarvis jones.

  • SfSteeler

    Z E R O…

    these guys are all drowning in there freshman year in the N F L!

  • SfSteeler

    lost in the hype, as many D lineman are in the 3-4…

  • PoKey21

    It seemed in the 2nd half of Smiths career when he was healthy we made it to the SB. When he went down our defense went completely out of whack. I know 1 player doesn’t make the team but Smith played a huge role in those SB runs and didn’t get much recognition. Having Heyward and Tuitt in the middle producing for a while can make us a top 5 rush defense again. I don’t mind mclendon in the middle either. Hampton was a special player and he can’t be duplicated but the way the NFL is going these days a quicker NT might be a better fit.

  • Russian Steel

    looking at the stats, Aaron Smith was barely above average even as a 3-4 DE in our defense that eats up blocks. To me he is vastly overrated…system player who was good but not great like every steelers fan except me seems to think. He had a ton of good to great players helping him out every week. Just saying if he were one of the greats you would think he’d average more than around 3.5 sacks, .75 forced fumbles, and 35 tackles per year. I think Cam Heyward is already better than Smith ever was and should reach another level beyond smith this coming season. it’s not crazy to think tuitt can be better than smith either.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Brian Arnfelt= Chris Hoke 2.0, that being said I do see him being the future career nose tackle back-up, I also see Tuitt getting a lot of PT, possibly more than Jarvis Jones have past season. Like I told a friend, I loved Tuitt pick more because its the pick that hitting two birds with one stone.

    We get to actually replace Hood, providing a true 3-4 booken defensive ends AND allowing Heyward to play on right side more where he’s more effecient. Tuitt himself is a true LDE in our scheme. Yes, we might actually get to see what it’d be like having Aaron Smith and Richard Seymour on same line.

    Not just, defense started to look like the 96′ defense with much better D-line.

  • Hp B

    Aaron Smith is one of the all time great Steelers.
    An All-American, on and off the field.

  • steeltown

    Problem is VW plays BUCK and Shazier is playing MAC, so technically VW would have to beat out Timmons. Regardless, its nice to have some young quality depth

  • wdhammer

    in other words he’s bad azzz

  • Are you kidding? Any of you remember the talk about Pouncey after his rookie year? Nothing but praise, and rightfully so. But, that year Dawson went into the Hall of Fame and that had people talking about Pouncey being there some day. Well after a few short years most of you want him gone if he wont take a cap friendly contract. Maybe he hasn’t played as well as most of us would have hoped, but he is very far from being as bad as some of you claim him to be.

    If you set your expectations for Tuitt to be as good or better than Aaron Smith, he will more than likely fail to meet them. That’s a very very tall order to say the least. Not saying he will be a bust by any stretch of the imagination. He could be a very solid starter, but to hope he’s Aaron Smith good when we haven’t even seen him in pro pads yet, is a little premature don’t you think?

    Don’t get me wrong, I want him to be the best he can be for us. But I won’t be upset or cast him out when he’s only very good and not great.

  • Weiss Chad


  • Weiss Chad

    I guess it was probably my fault for Limas sweed.My bad guys