PITTSBURGH — As the Pittsburgh Steelers began preparations for the 2021 season last week, veteran defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt was not a full participant in the team’s practices.
Given what happened to Tuitt this offseason, that’s probably understandable.
Richard Bartlett III, Tuitt’s younger brother, was killed in a hit and run vehicle-pedestrian accident in Georgia last month. Police in Georgia are still searching for the identity of the driver that struck Bartlett.
Suffice to say, football has not been at the top of Tuitt’s mind the last few weeks, and he was excused from the team’s mandatory minicamp at the end of June.
When it comes down to it, though, the Steelers are expecting Tuitt to be ready for the start of the regular season in September.
“He always will be our starter,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said last week. “I feel bad for him in terms of what happened to his mother and him. I mean, that’s horrible. My brother died four years ago and it’s always tough to lose a member in your family. Stephon handled it probably like I’d handle it too. Very tough, very hard. He’s got to take care of his mom. She lost a son. I’m not worried about it. I’m not worried about him. I think he’ll be okay. When time comes to play, he’ll be ready to play.”
Tuitt has participated in individual drills, but has generally worked off to the side during team periods while the team worked without pads at practice.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” Butler said. “Can he go out there and play right now? I don’t know. … He’s handled it mentally and stuff like that. He wants to play ball.”