On May 24, 2022, the Pittsburgh Steelers held the first of a half-dozen OTAs that are scheduled to take place between now and June 2. One of the biggest questions in the runup to the first organized team activity (OTA) was whether veteran defensive end Stephon Tuitt would attend, a continuation of the ongoing “Stephon Tuitt Watch,” which has been going on for the better part of a year.
It wasn’t long before word began to leak out that Tuitt was not in attendance at the first day of OTAs, with fellow defensive lineman Tyson Alualu confirming that with Josh Rowntree of 93.7 The Fan (Pittsburgh).
The upshot of that is that Steelers leadership — including head coach Mike Tomlin and defensive captain Cam Heyward — had to answer questions about Tuitt’s status and whether the 29-year-old defensive end plans to play this season, the same kind of questions that Tomlin and Heyward have had to field dating back to training camp 2021.
The latest Steelers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Steelers newsletter here!
Mike Tomlin: ‘I Focus My Energy on Those Who Are Here’
For his part, Tomlin was short when asked about Tuitt not showing up for the first day of OTAs.
“You’re exactly right, this is voluntary … I focus my energy on those who are here. That’s how I make it a productive day,” he said, according to Christopher Carter, who writes for Steelers Now.
But teammate Cam Heyward sounded optimistic that Tuitt would show up to play “sooner or later,” this according to Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
“I’ve talked to him,” said Heyward. “He’ll be here sooner or later. I’m not counting my sheep right now. My guys will be here. It’s really early. I’ve never had full attendance at an OTAs, and I don’t expect it.”
Per Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Cam Heyward related that Tuitt is in Indianapolis, where he now makes his home, but said he is “confident Tuitt will play for the Steelers this season.”
But that’s not really anything different than Heyward and other Steelers leadership has said before.
Stephon Tuitt Missed the Entire 2021 Season
As to how the Stephon Tuitt saga evolved to where it is today: First and foremost, Tuitt’s younger brother was killed in a tragic hit-and-run accident in Atlanta in June 2021.
Then in August there came confirmation that Tuitt was also dealing with a knee injury that promised to “bother him a while.” Shortly after that, Heyward indicated that Tuitt was “working his way back” towards a return to football, but as it turns out, Tuitt missed the entire 2021 season, a big blow to the Steelers defense.
Pro Football Focus, for one, rated Tuitt as the 11th-best defensive lineman in the NFL in May 2021, part of a list that also included Heyward and Alualu, the latter of whom suffered a broken ankle in Week 2 of last year but is expected to play out the final year of his contract in 2022.
Meanwhile, Tuitt is scheduled to earn a salary of $9,048,560 this season, according to overthecap.com. He carries a cap hit of $13,975,750, which represents 6.5% of the team’s total salary cap. If he’s released after June 1, 2022, the Steelers would save $9,050,000 on this year’s cap but incur a dead money charge of $4,925,750, with additional dead money in future years.
A good indicator as to whether Tuitt plans to try to return this season comes in early June, as the Steelers are scheduled to hold a mandatory minicamp from June 7-9.
Did Any Other Steelers Miss the First Day of OTAs?
As to whether any other Steelers players missed the first day of voluntary OTAs, reporters who watch the sessions have to be circumspect about what they reveal, unless information is directly confirmed by a player or coach.
But Chris Mack of 93.7 The Fan tweeted this about Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson:
“Gotta give Diontae Johnson some credit. He didn’t drop a single ball at today’s practice.”
Take from that what you will.
Follow the Heavy on Steelers Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
• 2018 NFL Re-Draft Sees Steelers Grab Franchise Tag-Worthy Safety
• Steelers Legend Jack Ham Reacts to Slight From Team’s G.M. Candidate
• Ramon Foster Has Explanation for ‘Bad Blood’ Between Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
• Steelers’ T.J. Watt Rockets up Board in 2017 NFL Re-Draft
• Steelers’ Mike Tomlin Reacts to the Retirement of a Ravens Legend