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Gorman: Steelers' Stephon Tuitt is The Lion Slayer

Kevin Gorman
| Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, 6:09 p.m.
Steelers Stephon Tuitt fights off a block during practice Friday, July 28, 2017, at St. Vincent.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers Stephon Tuitt fights off a block during practice Friday, July 28, 2017, at St. Vincent.

Stephon Tuitt has supreme confidence in himself, a confidence bordering on cockiness but befitting a man of his stature.

The Steelers defensive end stands 6-foot-6, 303 pounds, and men of that size sometimes have conversations not all of us can comprehend.

So, naturally, when one started among the Steelers about battling the world's most dangerous creatures, Tuitt took a strong stance that earned him a nickname: “The Lion Slayer.''

“We were just talking about how dangerous animals are and which one we would rather face, a shark in the ocean or a lion in the jungle?” Steelers inside linebacker Vince Williams said. “And he was like, ‘Oh, I'd definitely rather face a lion. I could kill a lion. The lion stands no chance.' ”

Tuitt picks up the story from there, clarifying the debate with his version.

“I didn't say I could beat the lion, I just said me and the lion were 50-50,” Tuitt said. “I just really believe anything that came into my life, I would conquer.”

This is about where you want to start believing every word Tuitt says and urge the Steelers to sign the fourth-year veteran to a long-term contract right now.

And Williams and outside linebacker Arthur Moats could serve as his negotiators, simply by re-telling this tale.

“We were like, ‘Tuitt, this is a lion we're talking about,' ” Moats said. “He was like, ‘No, I really could do it!' We were like, ‘How would you do it?' He said, ‘If I grab him, it's over. I'm strong!'

“We were like, he has teeth and razor-sharp claws! He could smack you one time and he'd kill you. He says, ‘You know what? I only need a spear. If the lion jumps at me, I'm just going to fall back and stab him.”

Adds Williams, with a hearty laugh: “He didn't say he would survive, he just said that the lion would also die.”

At this point, I'm starting to wonder if all of the Steelers have such supreme confidence and whether they deserve better than 12-to-1 odds to win the Super Bowl.

So, I ask Williams if he thinks he could conquer a lion.

“Oh, absolutely not,” Williams said. “At the beginning, I was like, ‘Oh, Tuitt's crazy.' But after he started talking about it and explaining it, I could kind of see it. Maybe. It's not absurd.”

Especially not in the eyes of one Stephon Tuitt, whose easy smile betrays a cutthroat competitiveness.

“I was like, me mad with a lion and scared at the same time would be a scary sight for the lion,” Tuitt said. “Just like I might be scared, the lion might be scared of me at the same time. If there's only one thing I've got to do, fight with a sword in my hand — it wasn't bare hands. There's no Hollywood technique — I'd be fighting for my life.

“Lions are very big, and they're king of the jungle for a reason. I'm not stupid about that. But, at the same time, I do feel like if I was in a situation where I had to fight for my life, I would win.”

Tuitt is laughing as he shares this story, but it quickly becomes evident he's dead serious.

“We were like, ‘There's no way you really believe this, right?' ” Moats said. “But you know when you look a person in their eyes and realize he's not budging at all? He's 100 percent on this.

“That's why we call him ‘The Lion Slayer.' ”

And what does any of this have to do with football, you might be wondering?

Well, I'm glad you asked.

“If he thinks he can kill a lion,” Williams said, “imagine what he's going to do to a guard.”

Tuitt has 10 12 sacks the past two seasons and said he believes he and Cameron Heyward are capable of double-digit sacks this season. And if Tuitt believes he can defeat a lion, who's to say he can't get 10 sacks?

Tuitt reminds you he started playing football only in ninth grade, that he's just 24 years old and still has so much to learn technically about playing his position in the 3-4 defense.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin called Tuitt's youth and experience “a good combination” and believes he is “going through a natural maturation process that young, talented guys go through.”

Add The Lion Slayer's supreme confidence, which comes from practicing against Pro Bowlers such as right guard David DeCastro and center Maurkice Pouncey every day, and Tuitt has the makings of something special.

“Just having a guy like that with that type of presence and personality on the field, it just lets you know that he comes to work and he's about business,” Moats said.

“And we love him because he has what we call ‘elite-level confidence.' If you truly believe you can beat a lion, then you believe no one can block you. He comes out with that same type of attitude. He doesn't believe there's anybody in this league who can block him. He believes he's the best defensive lineman in this league, and I feel like he shows up to practice like that and to games like that, as well.”

Tuitt compares his confidence to that of a running back who believes he can't be tackled in the open field.

“When you're lined up across from me, I feel like an offensive lineman can't block me,” Tuitt said. “I go up against the best every day. That's why I feel the way I feel. ... Basically, my goal is to destroy everybody in front of me.”

Pardon the pun, but I have a feeling Tuitt ain't lyin'.

The king of the jungle awaits, but the Steelers would prefer if The Lion Slayer takes out Tom Brady and the Patriots first.

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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