With just hours to go the Pittsburgh Steelers and defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt reached a new deal that will pay the Notre Dame product $61 million over six years. Because the Steelers have a long-held policy of not negotiating with players once the regular season begins, this was highly important for both sides.
For Tuitt, he gets the contract he was looking for and for the Steelers, they don’t have to worry about him hitting the free agency market. This deal will pay Tuitt $24 million over the first two years and as the Steelers typically do, they have nothing guaranteed after the first season.
Make no mistake about this; the Steelers are betting on number 91. They are taking a risk that he will get better and that the potential he has shown will come to fruition in the form of an all-pro defensive lineman. “Potential” is a scary word though because not everyone lives up to the expectations laid upon them and there are never guarantees.
In his last two seasons, Tuitt has recorded 10.5 sacks which for a defensive lineman in Pittsburgh isn’t too darn bad. One question many have though is whether or not his success depends on if Cam Heyward is on the field with him. When Heyward was knocked out for the season in week nine last year, the big man collected two sacks the following week and that was pretty much it.
In the 2016 postseason, Tuitt struggled. He recorded just four tackles in three games and didn’t pick up a single sack. While the responsibility on him increased significantly with Heyward out can his lack of production be centered on that? It’s debatable but clearly the Steelers believed that keeping Tuitt in the fold for the future was worth it.
Don’t underestimate the fact that Tuitt happens to be a darn good guy off the field as well. Coming off of a draft where ‘high character’ was obviously a must, his new deal continues that trend.
The Pittsburgh Steelers do things in a very specific and calculated way and if it was their objective to keep Tuitt a member of the team then consider this a goal achieved. Tuitt however has to live up to the contract he was often vocal about getting.
Photo courtesy: Post-Gazette