Normally, the Steelers don’t need to rely on the draft to produce immediate defensive starters. This year, they didn’t have that luxury.
His fears were quickly eased, he said, when Pittsburgh used its first two picks on defensive players, adding Notre Dame lineman Stephon Tuitt in the second round Friday night. The team then grabbed wide receiver/running back Dri Archer from Kent State in the third round.
Tuitt joined first-round pick linebacker Ryan Shazier as another young defensive player LeBeau expects will start this upcoming season and bolster an aging defensive roster. The Steelers ranked 25th in the NFL with 34 sacks last year and finished outside the top 10 in yards allowed for the first time since 1999
“The history of that defense is tremendous, and I can’t wait to help put it back up there,” Tuitt said.
The 6-foot-5, 303-pound Tuitt recorded 127 tackles and 21.5 sacks in three seasons. He was an All-American as a sophomore, recording 47 tackles and a team-high 12 sacks and helped lead the Fighting Irish to a national championship game appearance.
Without the injury, and the extra weight, Mitchell believes Tuitt would have been a top-10 pick.
“We feel like we got a steal in the second round at our pick,” Mitchell said.
He finished his junior year with 50 tackles, 7.5 sacks and one interception and fell to the Steelers at the 46th overall pick.
“He’s a guy that can do a lot of things for us,” Mitchell said. “He can push the pocket. He can play the run. He can get off blocks, and he can get to the ball. We got a good football player tonight.”
He pulled out of the combine and was unable to participate in the Fighting Irish pro day after a medical scan revealed a left foot fracture that required surgery. The Steelers worked him out privately in Atlanta ahead of the draft.
“My foot is great,” said Tuitt, who had a screw installed in his foot to repair the stress fracture.
“You’ve got to have some big guys out there, no matter how much of a speed package you put out there,” LeBeau said.