We have surprisingly not talked much about Pittsburgh Steelers fourth-year defensive end Stephon Tuitt. Of course, he has missed just about half of the season due to injury, but he has been back for three weeks now, and has been playing well, even if he has not registered a sack yet.
Which merely serves as a perfect example of why the sack statistic is overrated, because, while it’s always nice to drop the quarterback for a loss, a player who consistently gets pressure with few sacks is the one I would take over the one who only gets pressures when he’s able to get to the quarterback and bring him down.
Tuitt’s impact on the game was immediate. From the Chiefs’ first play of the game, he blew by the right tackle through the B Gap to gain penetration, forcing Kareem Hunt to bounce out wide, where he was strung out and ultimately tackled after gaining just a yard.
He followed that up on the next play by getting in between the guard and tackle, which forced them to hold him, drawing a penalty. Because 10 yards would be further back than half the distance to the goal from the 17, it ended up being second and 17.
A short time later, on the next possession, Tuitt kicked over wide to the defensive right side off the left tackle’s outside shoulder, rushing wide and getting past Eric Fisher, putting a hit on Alex Smith as he threw incomplete on third down, defended by Artie Burns.
Now I swear, when I first looked at this play from the end zone view, I honestly mistook Tuitt for James Harrison here. I even put this play in the Harrison column in my notes of what plays I wanted to look at this week during my film studies.
This just shows was a tremendous athlete he is for a man his size, showing bend like an outside linebacker. While Fisher hasn’t exactly proven to be the stiffest of challenges, this kind of move against any left tackle from a defensive end is impressive.
Back on his usual side of the field, even in the 3-4 front, Tuitt continued dominating the line, once again having no issues shooting the gap, and he was able to make the tackle here on Hunt for no gain.
On the next play, he swam inside Cameron Erving at right guard and had a good head of stream driving into Smith’s ribs as he threw, firing incomplete to the tight end with Ryan Shazier in coverage.
Late in the game, he added his first pass defensed of the season, able to get his big arm up in front of Smith’s throwing lane and bat the ball down. Harrison pressured and then sacked Smith on the following two plays, and then Cameron Heyward finishing off the pressure on fourth and 18 to seal the game.
Tuitt technically had just two tackles and a batted pass against the Chiefs, but numbers rarely tell the full story. That’s what the film is for. He was a steady presence in the backfield, and part of the reason they didn’t run the ball much.