After over a year of questions and speculation, veteran defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt finally announced his retirement after seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Even with his documented knee problems, the catalyst of his decision likely stemmed from the untimely passing of his younger brother, Richard Bartlett III, killed in a hit and run on June 2, 2021. With his decision now confirmed, the pending question is how will the Steelers fill the void left after this announcement?
As it stood, Tuitt was set to make a base salary of $9 million with a cap hit of $14 million. Newly appointed general manager Omar Khan may have the task of deciding how much of his salary they will take on in 2022.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle is finding a player who can match Tuitt's level of production. In 2020, his final season, he registered 11 sacks and was an integral piece in the Steelers' run defense. Even with the presence of All-Pro Cameron Heyward, the Steelers will still need someone to complement his production on the interior. Last season, Chris Wormley had a somewhat breakout season with 7 sacks. Beyond Wormley, there are still question marks surrounding second-year lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk, who registered a single sack in two starts last season.
There is also the possibility of free agency, which holds notable veteran interior linemen such as Ndamukong Suh and Larry Ogunjobi. Inevitably, cap space should play a role in their ability to find a high-quality defensive lineman to add to their group.
With Tuitt, you had a player that was well liked in the locker room and productive on the field. Replacing him will be a difficult but necessary task if the Steelers want to be one of the top defensive units in the NFL this upcoming season.