Mike Tomlin may look outside the box to replace Stephon Tuitt on defensive line
Replacing Stephon Tuitt on the defensive line won’t be tasked to one player, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged Wednesday.
The collaborative effort might even extend into another position group.
“There will be a lot of guys, not only in the D-line room, but maybe also in the outside linebacker room,” Tomlin said.
Tuitt, who had 3.5 sacks and six tackles for loss, lasted only five snaps Sunday night against the Los Angeles Chargers before tearing a pectoral muscle that will require season-ending surgery. He was placed on the reserve/injured list Tuesday.
Veteran Tyson Alualu, a former first-round pick, will get the first crack at taking Tuitt’s spot in the base 3-4 defense. Alualu and nose tackle Javon Hargrave will rotate in with defensive tackle Cameron Heyward in subpackages when the Steelers keep two down linemen on the field.
Among outside linebackers, Bud Dupree has the biggest size among his position group at 265 pounds. Anthony Chickillo played on the defensive line in college at Miami, but he has dropped almost 30 pounds to be an edge rusher for the Steelers.
In his sixth NFL season, Tuitt was having a breakout year when he was injured and a reason why the Steelers are ranked second in the league with 20 sacks.
“We’ve got to acknowledge Stephon was playing really good football as it pertains to the rush,” Tomlin said. “The rush has been the catalyst for a lot of positive things for us. We have to keep it hot and whatever that entails in utilization of people and combination of people, we are willing to do.”
Hargrave has rotated around the defensive line in subpackages since his rookie season when Cameron Heyward missed the final nine games with a torn pec muscle. Hargrave helped fill in when Tuitt missed four games in 2017 and two last season.
“That won’t be a new discussion,” Tomlin said. “He’ll be first up in assuming some of those responsibilities. He’s proven he’s been capable of that in the past.”
L.T. Walton was re-signed to take Tuitt’s spot on the 53-man roster. He will be among the backups competing for a role, along with nose tackle Daniel McCullers and rookie Isaiah Buggs.
Buggs, a sixth-round draft pick this year, made the 53-man roster but has been inactive on game days.
“We’re definitely not expecting him to provide a Tuitt-like effort,” Tomlin said, “but we’ll see if he’s ready for varsity action.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .