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Stephon Tuitt Not in Attendance for First Steelers OTA Session

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Steelers DE Stephon Tuitt

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers began organized team activities on Tuesday, and defensive end Stephon Tuitt was not in attendance for the first OTA session.

Tuitt missed the entire 2021 season following the tragic loss of his younger brother, Richard Bartlett III, who was killed in a hit-and-run accident last June. The veteran defensive end has not spoken publicly since his brother’s death.

Tuitt had been working his way back into football shape in training camp last summer when he then suffered a knee injury.

While outgoing general manager Kevin Colbert sounded optimistic at the owner’s meetings in March, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had “no updates” on Tuitt’s status when he spoke to the media prior to the draft last month.

When asked about Tuitt, head coach Mike Tomlin emphasized that attendance at the sessions is voluntary and declined to give an opinion about Tuitt’s absence.

“I focus my energy on those that are here,” Tomlin said. “That’s how I make it a productive day, particularly in the football environment that we’re in. We all know the nature of these workouts are voluntary. And so I’m doing a disservice to the men that made the commitment to be here if I have any other mentality.”

Defensive captain Cam Heyward said that he expects Tuitt to eventually report to the team and that he has confidence he will be able to return to his form from 2020.

“He’ll be here, sooner or later,” Heyward said. “It’s really early. I’ve never had full attendance at OTAs and I don’t expect it. … I don’t look at who’s not here. Guys get work everywhere and I know guys are going to continue to work their tails off. All I ask is that guys come in in good shape.”

Heyward compared the time Tuitt has been away from the game to 2016, when Heyward only played three games due to injury but was able to rebound the following season. Fellow defensive lineman Tyson Alualu is also going to be returning after missing almost all of the 2021 season.

“I’m confident in Stephon Tuitt,” Heyward said. “I think last year is last year. We grow, we live, and we move on. My brother was hurting last year. He had to do some things in his life to get him right. His knee wasn’t right and I can’t imagine being through the situation he went through. I think he’s in a much better place. “

Selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame, Tuitt had the most productive season of his career when he last suited up for Pittsburgh. He posted career-highs in sacks (11) and tackles-for-loss (10) in 2020. Returning Tuitt would go a long way in remedying a Steelers run defense that was the worst in the league a season ago.

Alan Saunders contributed reporting from Pittsburgh.

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