One Step To Take: DE Stephon Tuitt

Bringing back a s series I had a lot of fun exploring last offseason. Every player wants to improve, to elevate his game in all areas from one season to the next. Understanding that, we’re going to isolate just one area, one faction of a player’s game. The biggest area for improvement.

Stephon Tuitt – Turning Pressure Into Sacks 

Tuitt is a budding star and doesn’t have a lot of holes in a game. Far less than the two we’ve profiled so far – Artie Burns and Johnny Maxey – and many of the rest we’re going to cover throughout the offseason. But Tuitt has work to do, especially coming off a statistically “down” year. Despite starting the same number of games, his sacks dropped from 6.5 in 2015 to four last year. There are several reasons for that, systemic issues with the Steelers’ pass rush. Some have been fixed, some, not so much.

Part of that decline falls on Tuitt’s feet. Not enough pressures converted into sacks. Getting pressure on a QB is important, forcing him to move the pocket, hold onto the ball longer, allow teammates to shed and rally, but nothing beats a sack. Take away a down, march the offense back several yards at minimum, and it’s a morale boost for the defense, a morale loss for the offense. Nothing is better than a sack, is what I’m saying.

And Tuitt had the chance for several more sacks than what he finished with. Include the playoffs and he had four in 17 starts, a number that doesn’t suit his talent. He’s going to need to finish the opportunities he gets and creates next year. That’s the key word. Finish. And what I want to show you today.

Each clip will end with the same takeaway. Tuitt getting pressure, forcing the quarterback to move, but being unable to finish the play.

The first example I have logged comes in Week Three against the Philadelphia Eagles. Cross stunt with he and Cam Heyward and the left guard doesn’t see Tuitt loop across until the last second. Tuitt gets the pressure and force Carson Wentz to climb the pocket but he can’t finish the sack. Wentz takes advantage of a baited Ryan Shazier and hits Darren Sproles for a 73 yard touchdown. Near-sack that turns into a touchdown. Ouch.

Similar story here two weeks later against the New York Jets. Can’t bring down Ryan Fitzpatrick and he’s able to extend the play. Incompletion is good. Sack is so much better.

And later in the season too. The pressure, and good plastering downfield too, forces the incompletion but a sack would’ve had it go from 2nd and long to 3rd and impossible.

I get the excuses you can make for some of these. The linemen got in the way. The quarterback showed some athleticism; they get paid too. Tuitt can’t do it alone. All true. But if you want to be one of the best at your position, and Tuitt has that potential as a 3-4 end, you can’t make those excuses. Those are plays for him to make. And he didn’t. The difference between a 4.5 and 8 sack season is razor thin and these clips – they aren’t the only ones – highlight that. He needs a bounce back season. At least six sacks. Because the Steelers, with all their schematic changes, still prioritize a four man rush above all else.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Dshoff

    Tuitt also didn’t have Heyward for most of the season. But you are correct, Tuitt AND Heyward have to step up their game regarding the pass rush. Their excuse before was that pass rush wasn’t really their job, but now it is. It is now their 3rd year with that responsibility and its time to step up.

  • Dave

    Tuitt’s a monster, look at that speed for a 300lb guy! He’s like high speed a freight train. Hope they get a contract done soon as I’m expecting a jump in sacks and TFL’s now that the LB unit is solidifying. You can blame Tuitt for the missed sack in the first example but the true failure was Jones not getting off his block for the flush sack. No Dupree available either and all three of these examples moved opposite Harrison. 2017 (barring injury) will see a huge jump for the “D”.

  • Jaybird

    Tuiit is one of my favorite current players. I also think he’s the most talented guy on defense. But for some reason he is just not as dominating as he could be. I think he’s got as much ability as any 3-4 DE. I actually think Hargrave will improve and help elevate the rest of the line , Tuiit included.

  • Jaybird

    Seeing run down Smith and beat him to the sideline on that one Gif was pretty impressive. There aren’t many 305 lb linemen who could keep Smith from getting to the sideline and turning it upfield.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Absolutely correct, but good luck slowing down a freight train. Too much momentum. So a small move finds him reaching or diving in desperation. If I were him I would spend a lot of time trying to improve change of direction. Those ankles need to be stronger but more flexible. Just a little more bend and cornering ability and he makes all those plays. He is an absolute beast but this one little thing could make him dominant.

  • SilverSteel

    Good point. He is blowing right by the QB. Bend baby bend 🏋️

  • StolenUpVotes

    I am expecting big things from this team this year and Tuitt is one big reason why

  • WreckIess

    This type of thing is why I struggle to understand why a lot of guys think he can be a good 4-3 DE. His athleticism is great for a 3-4 DE or a DT in the Nickel, but he’s pretty clearly not the most flexible guy in the world so he’s not going to be bending very many edges as an EDGE.

  • RickM

    I agree that he has to pick it up, especially to warrant close to a double-digit contract. He played the same number of games in 2015 and 2016 (14) and his combined tackles dropped from 54 to 37, and as you say his sacks dropped from 6.5 to 4. I have to assume though that some of that was because he was double-teamed more. I look for a big rebound.

  • Mark G Hunter

    True. But also he didn’t have Heywood on the other side of the line, that’s why he was doubled more. And his production dropped. Also whatever LB played on his side was ineffective.

  • Steve Johnson

    Well, Bud Dupree was out 3/4 of the year, Jarvis Jones? Enough said.