Stephon Tuitt expecting to make big plays more consistently for Steelers


Everything about Stephon Tuitt is big: his size, his contract, his expectations as a hulking end on the Pittsburgh Steelers defense.

And during a brief appearance Sunday night in the team's exhibition at Tennessee, so was his production.

Tuitt played just 12 snaps in the Steelers' 18-6 victory against the Titans, but within a four-play sequence, the 6-foot-6, 303-pound lineman provided a snapshot of why he was a second-round draft pick and rewarded with a five-year, $ 60 million contract before the 2017 season.

First, Tennessee, Tennessee, Tennessee Offensive Rodger Saffold, Marcus Mariota in the end zone for a safety. On the next defensive series, he completed a three-and-one for the Titans when he dropped Ryan Tannehill for a 7-yard loss

Tuitt's sacks were two of the seven produced by the Steelers, who have 14 after three preseason games.

"Everybody in the locker room knows I can not do that," Tuitt said. "My role is to be more consistent with it and the game is as good as I can."

Consistency, however, is lacking for NFL season. He has been a disruptive force in spurts, and his potential has been reduced to two years ago. On the eve of the season, Tuitt signed a five-year contract, Cameron Heyward has bookends on the defensive line.

On the first two plays of the '17 season, it was worth the investment. He chased Cleveland quarterback Deshone Kizer out of the pocket for a 1-yard winning then hounded running back Isaiah Crowell for a 9-yard loss.

Tuitt, though, tore his biceps He was injured later in the year, missing two others.

Last season, Tuitt sat down with two goals (45) and sacks (5 1/2). Still, he has accumulated as many sacks (20) in five seasons and 70 games as Heyward has recorded two seasons and 31 games.

Given Tuitt and Heyward have similar contracts, it would be reasonable for the Steelers to expect similar production. Perhaps the showing against Tennessee was a harbinger for Tuitt.

"We expect big things from him, and he's expecting big things from him," coach Mike Tomlin said. "He has a good preseason both in stadiums and out. That was not unlike what we've been looking at from him. "

Heyward is also interested in seeing the path that Tuitt's career takes this season.

"It's a big thing on what he can do, whether it's rocking with speed or being more physical," Heyward said. "When he's getting those one-on-ones, he's winning them a lot more. He's just got to continue to do it. It's going to make us all better. "

The Steelers led the NFL in sacks in each of the past two seasons, and Tuitt playing at full potential would make the unit even more formidable this season. The defense has been tasked with creating more turnovers. Even though a safety does not qualify, it was one of the biggest plays in the game Sunday.

It provided the Steelers a 2-0 lead, and they took the ball rolling for a touchdown and an 8-0 advantage on the next possession. Then, the Steelers got the ball back again after Tuitt sacked Tannehill on third down.

The sacks served as a reminder of what Tuitt can bring to the defense. An unnecessary reminder, Tuitt believes.

"It's not more me showing for other people. It's always me doing it, "he said. "Within this defense, you're going to be in the process of doing something more than the other. We have a lot of terrific guys out there. Some weeks I'm going to be two to three (players), and some other guys are going to make the plays.

"I'm really OK with how my position is."

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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