In recent days there has been some discussion on social media about the Pittsburgh Steelers possibly cutting Ben Roethlisberger. While this makes little sense to me, those individuals have done their best to explain why. On the other side of the ball though is Stephon Tuitt. Is there a case for the Steelers to move on from him or are they in a similar boat as they are with Roethlisberger?
In September of 2017 Tuitt signed a five-year $60 million contract. This means he’s tied to the Steelers through the end of the 2022 season. In the upcoming season, Tuitt is scheduled to make a base salary of $9 million. His cap hit will be over $14.9 million and his dead money comes to $15.2 million. Let’s also not forget that his contract was re-structured in 2018 as well.
Last year, Tuitt missed 10 games with a torn pectoral muscle. Since being drafted in 2014, Tuitt has yet to be available for all 16 games in a season. The real shame with his injury last season was that he was probably playing at the highest level any of us had seen during his career. Because he’s relatively young at 26 years of age, there is still hope that he can have a stable and promising career. Since that rookie season where he started just four games Tuitt has missed 20 games since 2015. This has often earned him a “he can’t stay healthy” moniker in recent seasons but is this fair? Half of those 20 games missed occurred in 2019.
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In an age where fans often complain about players not playing through injuries or getting rest due to “load management,” Tuitt has often played hurt. Whether it was a biceps tear and back injuries in 2017 or elbow issues a season later, Tuitt has played at well less than 100%.
Whether you choose to find this admirable, selfish or just plain stupid isn’t the point. Tuitt did what many, many players before him did in playing hurt. Did it affect his overall performance? I don’t think there’s any question it did but he should be respected for doing it. He should also probably be respected even more for not talking about it or using it as an excuse. To my knowledge, I don’t recall him ever saying anything publicly about dealing with injuries no matter how much they impacted his overall performance.
Strangely enough, the Steelers find themselves in a similar spot that they’re in with Big Ben (similar not the same). They have a lot of money tied up in players that they aren’t 100% sure they can count on in 2020. Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert and company have to hope that Tuitt returns to the form he began 2019 with and of course hope that he doesn’t get hurt.
As fans we know that Tuitt is more than capable of being a dominant force opposite Cam Heyward when healthy but based on his financials the Steelers are stuck whether he plays well or not.