Steelers ‘Considering’ Injured Reserve for Star Defender: Report

Chris Wormley Stephon Tuitt

Jason Miller/Getty Images Chris Wormley #95 and Stephon Tuitt #91 of the Pittsburgh Steelers react after Wormley's sack against Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns on January 03, 2021.

On Tuesday afternoon the Pittsburgh Steelers unveiled the team’s initial 53-man roster for the 2021 season. One of the oddities is that the club decided to keep eight defensive linemen, when seven would normally be the outer limit at that position group. A possible explanation has come courtesy of Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who says the Steelers are “considering” placing standout defensive end Stephon Tuitt on the Reserve/Injured list with a knee injury.

Tuitt Would Be Eligible to Return in October

If the team places Tuitt on injured reserve, he would miss (at least) the first three games of the regular season and would not be eligible to return to the lineup until the Steelers visit Lambeau Field to play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Oct. 3.

That would be a big blow to Pittsburgh’s defense, as the eight-year veteran has long been one of the team’s most effective—if somewhat unheralded—defenders. He also carries the fourth-highest salary cap hit on the team this season ($8,600,750).

Last year the 28-year-old had arguably his best season to date, contributing 45 total tackles (33 solo), along with 11 sacks, 25 quarterback hits, 10 tackles for loss, three passes defensed and a pair of forced fumbles.

Yet even if the Steelers keep Tuitt on the active roster, it’s doubtful that he could be an effective contributor in Week 1, as he has yet to take part a single preseason practice. And if the team moves Tuitt to injured reserve, it would open up a spot on the active roster, which would most likely be occupied by an offensive lineman or defensive back, as the initial 53-man roster contains only eight of each.

One thing defensive coordinator Keith Butler really wants to avoid is rushing Tuitt back—and exacerbating his knee problem or suffering a new injury. “We don’t want him to go out there and get hurt and we lose him for another four weeks or something like that,” said Butler in mid-August, per Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Dulac was the first Steelers reporter to confirm that Tuitt was dealing with a rumored physical injury. Last Thursday he noted that the ailment in question could bother Tuitt “for a while.”

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Plan B for the Steelers’ Defensive Line

Assuming Tuitt isn’t ready for the season-opener at Buffalo, the Steelers plan to play backup Chris Wormley alongside nose tackle Tyson Alualu and defensive tackle Cameron Heyward. Wormley was acquired in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens in March 2020, and though he had minimal impact during his first season in Pittsburgh, the Steelers elected to re-sign him (to a two-year contract) back in March.

As for the other four defensive linemen to make the 53-man roster, those would be: Isaiah Buggs, Henry Mondeaux, Carlos Davis and rookie fifth-round pick Isaiahh Loudermilk, all of whom are expected to serve as backups along the line, at least until Tuitt returns.

Pittsburgh opens its regular-season schedule on Sunday Sept. 12 against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. The Steelers’ home opener is Sunday Sept. 19 vs. the Las Vegas Raiders at Heinz Field. Both are 1 p.m. Eastern starts.

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