Pittsburgh has a team policy not to negotiate new deals once the regular season gets underway, so the club will cease talks after Saturday. The Steelers are tight on cap space — just under $7MM, per Over the Cap — and that’s accounting for fellow defensive lineman Cameron Heyward‘s contract restructure, which opened ~$3.1MM. An extension for Tuitt would likely cut into those reserves, as Pittsburgh nearly always relatively large signing bonuses.
Tuitt doesn’t have to worry about a fifth-year option given that he was selected in the second round of the 2014 draft, so he’ll hit the open market next spring. Scheduled to earn just $1.094MM in 2017, Tuitt posted four sacks a season ago while grading as Pro Football Focus’ No. 20 interior defender. The going rate for non-Muhammad Wilkerson/J.J. Watt 3-4 defensive ends is around $10MM annually, and given his age (24), Tuitt could reach or surpass that mark.
The 2018 franchise tag for defensive ends figures to come in north of $17MM, a figure that’s probably untenable for a 3-4 end like Tuitt. As such, the Steelers will need to hammer out an agreement with Tuitt or risk losing him to free agency next year.
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