In the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft on Friday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected DT/DE Stephon Tuitt of Notre Dame (#7 in the photo above). With rounds one and two focused on defensive players, it appears that the Steelers are building a formidable ‘D’ that will have some teeth that Dick LeBeau and defensive line/assistant head coach John Mitchell can bite with.
Height: 6 foot 5 inches
Weight: 303 pounds
Hometown: Monroe, Georgia (Monroe Area High School)
College: Notre Dame (College of Arts and Letters, Major in Anthropology)
Notre Dame Career Highlights
Starting 29 of 35 games for Notre Dame, Tuitt’s draft stock may have taken an early hit due to a stress fracture in his foot that kept him from being able to participate at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. That aside, Tuitt played both left defensive tackle and defensive end for the Fighting Irish. He finished his career with 127 tackles (59 solo), 21.5 sacks for minus 163 yards. He added 25 stops for a loss of 176 total yards and had 27 quarterback pressures. Add to that four forced fumbles, four deflected passes, one blocked kick, a recovered fumble that he returned for a 77-yard touchdown and an interception in the end zone that resulted in a score and you’ve got a formidable defenseman headed for training camp with Pittsburgh.
Tuitt currently holds the record for sacks for any active Notre Dame player (20) and ranks fifth in school history behind Mike Gann (21.0). Ranked second on 2012 team with 12 sacks. Second-longest fumble advancement (77 yards) is held by Tuitt.
Highlights from John Mitchell press conference (post-pick):
“I had the chance to go to Atlanta and work (Stephon) out,” said Mitchell. “I was really impressed with him. As a defensive line coach, we see defense a little different. We [play] from the inside out rather than from the outside in. There are three things when I evaluate a player that I look for. One, can this player stay on his feet? Two, is he physical? And three, will he run to the ball?” Mitchell said that what he likes about Tuitt is that not only can he sack but he can “shed.”
“If you look at (Tuitt) during his sophomore year, this guy was probably one of the best defensive linemen in college,” said Mitchell. “Before the 2013 season…he had a hernia [injury]…He’s over that injury. We look for this guy to be here for a long time. He’s a guy that can do a lot of things for us.”
Mitchell expects Tuitt to not only get into fine playing shape, but to show that he is able to get off blocks and get to the ball – something Tuitt has proven in college prior to his injury. Mitchell felt that the fact that the hernia injury slowed Tuitt down hurt his draft stock and many NFL scouts felt the hairline fracture in one of his feet gave pause to whether he was in NFL shape or not. Obviously, the Steelers see more in Tuitt than a couple small injuries and a need to train hard and play hard.
Tuitt has the ability to play both sides of the defensive line, although he was used more on the right side. He was used in tandem with Louis Nix III at Notre Dame. As for whether Tuitt is considered a ‘strong side guy’, Mitchell told the media, “We don’t have a strong side. It’s wherever the formation breaks.” And as for revealing where Tuitt may start off, he made it clear that no decision has been made.