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.