Stephon Tuitt

AFC Rumors: Browns, Steelers, Chargers, Walker

In the 2021 NFL Draft, Cleveland had every intention of drafting Florida kicker Evan McPherson at No. 153 overall, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. Unfortunately for the Browns, division-rival Cincinnati beat them to the punch, drafting McPherson four spots earlier. McPherson had an impressive rookie-season, converting 28 of 33 field goals and 46 of 48 extra points in the regular season, as well as going a perfect 14 of 14 on field goals and 6 of 6 on extra points in the Bengals’ Super Bowl run.

Afraid of watching another top kicker succeed elsewhere, Cleveland jumped at the opportunity to take this years’ best boot, LSU’s Cade York, at No. 124 overall. After missing four extra points and six field goals in his freshman year, York was perfect on extra points and only missed six-combined field goals in his last two seasons at LSU. York might be forgiven for his four missed extra points in 2019, as Joe Burrow and the Tigers’ championship-winning offense forced him to attempt an insane 93 extra points that year. His leg was probably pretty worn out. For comparison, he only attempted 75 extra points over the next two seasons.

Time will tell if the Browns spent a fourth-round pick to ensure a homerun addition or if the Browns’ fear of missing out yet again led to them jumping the gun and over-valuing the only kicker taken in the Draft.

Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC, starting with a rumor from the Steel City:

  • Pittsburgh spent the 2021 NFL season without defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt due to both a knee injury suffered early in training camp and the grief of losing his brother during OTAs. The assumption, according to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, is that Tuitt’s knee is healed after a year, but the fact that he remained absent due to personal issues (according to the team) is the larger concern. If healthy, can Tuitt find the will to return to the field? Another potential absence before mandatory minicamp is the Steelers’ top receiver from last year, Diontae Johnson. Johnson is pushing for a contract extension and all signs point to him not showing up until absolutely necessary. Ideally, they would like their number one wideout to start building chemistry with new quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett, but there’s no need to panic until he decides to hold out from training camp.
  • Offensive tackle Drew Himmelman recently found himself heading to Washington after hitting the waiver wire. According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the Chargers put in a waiver claim on Himmelman but didn’t have the priority. This is the second time this week that Los Angeles failed to add some offensive line depth after they, and the Commanders, failed to obtain now-Jaguars’ offensive guard Wes Martin, who was waived by the Giants. The Chargers were able to add Boston College’s Zion Johnson and Georgia’s Jamaree Salyer to a line that returns starters Rashawn Slater, Corey Linsley, Storm Norton, and Matt Feiler through the Draft, but they clearly want to bring more competition to camp in order to build the best offensive line possible to protect their young quarterback.
  • No. 1 overall draft pick Travon Walker spent most of his time in Athens rotating around the defensive line. So far in minicamp, though, according to Jaguars Senior Writer John Oehser, Walker has been seeing work at one position: outside linebacker. This is part of head coach Doug Pederson and general manager Trent Baalke‘s plan to help develop Walker, focusing first on outside linebacker work before eventually utilizing his versatility around the line. Not only did Walker’s work at linebacker focus on pass rushing, he also worked with outside linebackers coach Bill Shuey on dropping back into coverage. Jacksonville appears happy with Walker’s development so far and will look forward to seeing his full potential as he continues to learn and grow.

Steelers Notes: Colbert, QB Search, More

When speaking to the media on Monday, outgoing Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert provided an update on a number of topics, beginning with his personal plans. As Gerry Dulac of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (via Twitter), he is unlikely to completely retire once his successor is named. 

[Related: Steelers GM Kevin Colbert To Step Down]

Specifically, Colbert said, “I may or may not have a role” with the franchise after his contract expires following the draft. Dulac adds that the 65-year-old made his intention to step down clear last May, noting that “it was time from a personal standpoint, it was time from a professional standpoint”. ESPN’s Brooke Pryor tweets that Colbert is helping with the search for the new GM, which is primarily taking place before March 1st because teams can block candidates from interviewing after that date.

With regards to the top offseason priority in Pittsburgh – the search for a new starting quarterback – Colbert repeated the team’s public support of Mason Rudolph. “We have confidence that Mason, if we started today, would be our starter and we’re excited to see where that can go”, he said (Twitter link via Dulac). Rudolph holds a record of 5-4-1 as a starter after being a third round pick in 2018.

Here are some other Steelers notes, including more on the QB situation:

  • Colbert made it clear that the team, as expected, will place an RFA tender on Dwayne Haskins. That will leave the Steelers with two incumbent signal callers, but Colbert said “we know we’re going to add to the position” in the offseason, adding that “we will go to camp with four” (Twitter link via Pryor). He didn’t specify what avenue the team could take to acquire other options, but they are expected to be active in any regard.
  • Dulac tweets that Colbert acknowledged the unusually flexible position the team is in with regards to cap space, though he stressed that they traditionally don’t spend as much as other teams on the open market. He did, however, seem to “leave [the] door open to spend” this March.
  • Pryor reports that the Steelers are open to retaining defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt for next year, the final one on his current contract (Twitter link). The 28-year-old missed the entire 2021 season with a knee injury, and is scheduled to have a cap hit of just under $14MM next year. He has 34.5 sacks in seven seasons, all with the Steelers.
  • Finally, Pryor tweets that Pittsburgh has yet to decide whether or not they will pick up linebacker Devin Bush‘s fifth year option. “I think Devin Bush will be a better player in 2022”, Colbert said, referring to his recovery from a torn ACL. It had previously been reported that the team wasn’t picking up the option, but doing so would leave a significant hole in the middle of the team’s defense.

Steelers Place DL Stephon Tuitt On IR

The Steelers will not have one half of their longtime defensive end duo to start the season. Stephon Tuitt will begin the year on IR.

Tuitt has battled a knee injury this summer. This move will sideline the eighth-year defensive lineman for at least the season’s first three games. The Steelers carried Tuitt through to their 53-man roster, but he will not be able to join Cameron Heyward and Co. in uniform until at least October.

Last season marked a return from a separate injury for Tuitt, who saw his 2019 slate end early because of a chest malady. Tuitt returned to have his best year as a pass rusher. The former second-round pick posted 11 sacks and 25 QB hits last season, helping the Steelers to an 11-0 start and the AFC North title.

Pittsburgh also placed offensive tackle Zach Banner and running back Anthony McFarland on IR Wednesday. After missing 15 games last season, Banner was in line to begin this year as the team’s right tackle starter. Those plans will be on hold. Banner began last season as the team’s right tackle but suffered a torn ACL in Week 1. Both players will also be eligible to return in Week 4.

To fill these roster spots, the Steelers brought back O-linemen B.J. Finney and Rashaad Coward, along with cornerback Arthur Maulet. Pittsburgh cut each on Tuesday.

COVID-19 Latest: Ravens, Tuitt, Colts

Multiple standout defensive linemen will be back in action in Week 13, and although the Ravens still have several players on their reserve/COVID-19 list, their roster is no longer as depleted as it was Wednesday.

  • Baltimore’s coronavirus list still houses 10 players, including Lamar Jackson, but the team will have multiple starters back at practice soon. The Ravens activated Calais Campbell, Mark Ingram and defensive lineman Jihad Ward from their virus list. Ingram was eligible to play against the Steelers on Wednesday, but the Ravens held him out. A five-time Pro Bowler, Campbell has not played since Nov. 8 due to a calf strain.
  • The 11-0 Steelers will have Stephon Tuitt back in action when they face Washington on Monday. They activated the seventh-year starter from their reserve/COVID list. Three Steelers remain on the virus list, including starters James Conner and Maurkice Pouncey.
  • Pricey trade acquisition DeForest Buckner came off the Colts‘ virus list as well. Buckner landed on Indianapolis’ COVID list after testing positive for the virus in late November. The Colts, who allowed the Titans to rush for 229 yards in Buckner’s absence last week, also removed Jonathan Taylor from their virus list.
  • The Ravens announced Saturday that four strains of the coronavirus were present in their building. While the team believes it contained three of those strains, the fourth ended up spreading to the point it forced the NFL to postpone the team’s Steelers rematch three times. Ten straight days commenced with at least one Raven testing positive for the virus, and the team had as many as 23 players on its reserve/COVID list at the height of the outbreak. Four straight days, however, have passed without a Ravens positive test.

Ravens, Steelers Place 3 Players On Reserve/COVID-19 List

5:52pm: While a sixth straight day did produce a Ravens positive coronavirus test, just one player’s test came back positive Friday. Practice squad offensive lineman Will Holden tested positive, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). Holden will become the 15th player on Baltimore’s reserve/COVID-19 list. This will continue to be the NFL situation to monitor over the next few days.

3:28pm: The Ravens and Steelers each moved three players to their respective reserve/COVID-19 lists Friday. This comes shortly after the NFL pushed the AFC North’s top rivalry back to Tuesday night.

Stephon Tuitt, defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs and offensive lineman Jerald Hawkins are now on the Steelers’ virus list, while the Ravens moved fullback Patrick Ricard, long snapper Morgan Cox and defensive tackle Justin Madubuike to theirs. Lamar Jackson also landed on Baltimore’s COVID list. The reigning MVP tested positive for the coronavirus Thursday; Ricard confirmed (via Twitter) he tested positive as well.

For the Ravens, this increases their COVID list to 14 players — including key cogs Jackson, Ricard, Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, Matt Skura, Pernell McPhee, Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins. This concerning number resulted in the NFL moving the Ravens-Steelers rematch for a second time. The 7pm Tuesday slot, however, represents conceivably the final Week 12 window for this game. Another delay would test the NFL in a way previous virus issues have not.

It is not known if Tuitt tested positive. If he did not, he could still play Tuesday. Depending on when the standout defensive lineman’s last contact with a COVID-19-positive person occurred, he could still be activated in time for the Steelers’ Tuesday game. With the NFL moving Week 13’s Ravens-Cowboys game to Monday, Dec. 7, Jackson could be activated. Had the NFL kept that game on Thursday — which it will if the Steelers-Ravens tilt cannot be played Tuesday — Jackson would have been ineligible to return for that contest.

Steelers’ Stephon Tuitt Done For Year

Stephon Tuitt left Sunday night’s game midway through, and he’ll miss the rest of the season due to the chest injury he suffered. The Steelers fear they may be without one of their long-tenured defensive ends for a while, with Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reporting (video link) the team has concern Tuitt suffered a torn pectoral muscle.

Surgery is ahead for the sixth-year veteran as he watches the Steelers from a distance. It all has to be extra frustrating for Tuitt as his Steelers are 2-4 through six games.

Tuitt and Cameron Heyward have served as Pittsburgh’s defensive end starters for the past five seasons. Both are playing on high-end extensions and play key roles for a Steelers team that’s seen productivity from its pass rush this season. Tuitt was on pace to eclipse his single-season sack high (6.5 in 2015), having recorded 3.5 in six Steelers contests.

Heyward and Tuitt exited Week 6 as the NFL’s fourth- and sixth-best interior defenders, per Pro Football Focus, so losing the former second-round pick is a considerable blow for Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has veteran backup Tyson Alualu and sixth-round rookie Isaiah Buggs as backup defensive ends. Alualu would be the next man up opposite Heyward.

Beyond this year, the 6’6″, 303-pound lineman still has three seasons to go on his contract with a 2020 cap hit of $14.9MM.

Steelers Restructure Stephon Tuitt’s Deal

The Steelers have converted $5.195MM of defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt’s $6M base salary into a signing bonus, according to ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter). The move will create $3.9MM in desperately needed cap space for the Steelers. 

Heading into Tuesday, the Steelers had just $1.091MM in breathing room, the lowest in the NFL. Now that the Steelers have roughly $5MM in space, the Broncos (~$4.8MM) have the least amount of cap room in the league.

Tuitt, 26, registered 5.5 sacks and 45 total tackles in 14 games last season. A full-time starter since 2015, Tuitt has 20 sacks to his credit, but has yet to play a full 16-game slate since joining the first string.

Last year, Tuitt agreed to a similar contract adjustment in order to accommodate the Steelers.

North Notes: McCarthy, Lions, Tuitt, Ravens

Mike McCarthy‘s enjoyed the benefit of coaching two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, and the Packers have qualified for nine playoff brackets in the coach’s 12 previous seasons. But with the team in danger of missing the NFC bracket for the second straight season, McCarthy appears to be firmly on the hot seat. The 13th-year Green Bay coach’s job status is “pretty clearly” uncertain regarding 2019, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link). McCarthy signed a one-year extension to take him through the ’19 season, so the team isn’t committed long-term here. He’s now reporting to team president Mark Murphy under the post-Ted Thompson power structure, and with Brian Gutekunst now GM, different voices will have a say if McCarthy will be brought back.

That’s the job. That’s the way this business has gone,” McCarthy said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, when asked about his status. “I’m not going to get into comparables, but at the end of the day that’s part of the job responsibility of the head coachWe set a standard here the past 12 years and it’s our responsibility to play to that standard.”

The Packers are venturing near must-win territory if they want to secure their ninth playoff berth in 10 seasons. They face the Vikings in Minnesota next week.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions:

  • The post-Megatron Lions relied on the Marvin JonesGolden Tate tandem. For the first time since Calvin Johnson retired, neither will suit up for Detroit. Jones is out for Sunday’s game against the Panthers after missing practice this week, and ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein reports the veteran Lions wideout is seeking a second opinion on his injured right knee. Initial tests revealed no damage to Jones’ ACL or MCL, and Jones was diagnosed with a bone bruise. He’ll miss only his second game as a Lion. T.J. Jones would likely be the starter in Marvin Jones‘ place.
  • T.J. Lang‘s Lions tenure hasn’t gone as smoothly from a health standpoint. The former Pro Bowl guard landed on IR this week because of a neck injury, but that setback is not believed to be career-threatening, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports. Lang also suffered a concussion that forced him to miss time earlier this season. He only played in six games this season after missing three in 2017. Set for his age-32 season next year, Lang — with an $11.1MM cap number — will be a release candidate in the offseason. The Lions could save more than $8MM by releasing the acclaimed blocker. Lang is due a $500K roster bonus on the fourth day of the upcoming league year.
  • Darius Slay, however, will be back for the Lions after missing Week 10. Bears wideout Allen Robinson gouged the Lions in Slay’s absence, but the All-Pro cornerback was not on the injury report as of Friday and will return Sunday.
  • While the 2018 Jaguars haven’t been the kind of impediment the 2017 version was, the Steelers will be without a key starter in their attempt to beat a team that went 2-0 against them last season. Stephon Tuitt will miss Sunday’s game with an elbow injury he sustained against the Panthers. Tyson Alualu will start in Tuitt’s place up front, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets.
  • Although Robert Griffin III has been mentioned as a possible Ravens starter Sunday, the expectation remains Lamar Jackson will take the reins, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Jackson’s hospital trip Thursday, coupled with Joe Flacco‘s hip injury, left Griffin as the Ravens’ lone practice quarterback that day. But Jackson returned to practice Friday.

AFC Notes: Raiders, Incognito, Steelers

After the NFL recently announced their new national anthem policy, more details about the owners’ process are trickling out. There apparently was no official vote on the new anthem policy, only an informal polling of owners by league executives, according to Seth Wickersham of ESPN (Twitter links). Wickersham added that Raiders owner Mark Davis abstained from the vote and was “one of the most eloquent speakers on the social justice issues.” Davis joined 49ers owner Jed York, who made his abstention public yesterday, in abstaining from the vote.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Free agent offensive lineman Richie Incognito apparently believed he was being followed by FBI agents and was in the possession of secret NSA documents when he was placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold yesterday (Twitter link via USA Today’s A.J. Perez). Incognito recently announced his retirement from the league, but has since wavered and indicated he’d like to continue playing with a team other than the Bills, who he played the last three seasons with. Incidents like this certainly won’t help Incognito’s quest to latch on with another team.
  • Steelers defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt played with a torn bicep during the 2017 season, according to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic (Twitter link). Tuitt made clear that he’s fully healthy now, saying the injury “is back healed again and strong and I can’t wait to stick people in the mouth with it.” Tuitt was signed to a $60MM extension before last season, and will be counted on to play a big role this year.
  • Bengals star defensive end Carlos Dunlap missed the beginning of OTAs, according to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Although Bengals coach Marvin Lewis called it “not a big deal,” Dunlap will miss out on a $300K workout bonus. Dunlap, a two-time Pro-Bowler, is entering the final year of his contract and is apparently angling for an extension.

Steelers Create Nearly $15MM In Cap Space

Mired in another negotiation with Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers will have a friendlier cap situation to work with after two starters agreed to adjust their contracts.

The team will take the restructure route to create space. Both David DeCastro and Stephon Tuitt agreed to convert their 2018 base salaries into roster and signing bonuses, Field Yates of ESPN.com reports, and this will free up $13.26MM in 2018 cap space.

Neither player will lose any money, with these being merely adjustments to help out in the short term. Tuitt, who signed an extension just before last season, now has a $10.21MM signing bonus included in his contract. DeCastro, extended just before the 2016 season, has a $6.79MM signing bonus coming his way.

DeCastro will count for $5.69MM against Pittsburgh’s 2018 cap as a result of this conversion, and Tuitt will represent $5.43MM of the Steelers’ ’18 payroll. Both will earn $790K in base salary this season. However, these adjustments will inflate the linemen’s 2019 figures. Tuitt comes in at $13.64MM for 2019, and DeCastro’s cap hit is set to be $11.97MM next year.

Bell stands as the only high-profile UFA for a team that’s usually not too big on free agency, but with the running back franchise tag cost rising to $14.5MM and a decision due by March 6, the team appears to be preparing for a tag scenario — if only as a means of retaining negotiating rights through mid-July.