(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Heading into the first day of voluntary OTAs on Tuesday, the biggest talking point was whether Stephon Tuitt would be in attendance. It turns out, Tuitt wasn't there and is back at his full-time residency in Indianapolis training and getting ready for the season.
Tuitt missed the entire 2021 season with a knee injury, but he was also dealing with a personal tragedy, as his brother, Richard Bartlett III, 23, was killed in a hit-and-run car accident in June.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Bartlett died after he was struck by a car while trying to secure a mattress and box spring to the top of a vehicle along McGinnis Ferry Road about 9:30 p.m. on June 2. The hit-and-run remains under investigation.
Veteran players not attending OTAs isn't abnormal, as it's in fact, voluntary. Mike Tomlin stressed that when talking with reporters.
“You’re exactly right, this is voluntary … I focus my energy on those who are here. That’s how I make it a productive day,” Tomlin said.
Fellow defensive lineman Cam Heyward and Tyson Alualu echoed what Tomlin said.
“I’ve talked to him,” Heyward said via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’ll be here sooner or later. I’m not counting my sheep right now. My guys will be here. It’s really early. I’ve never had full attendance at OTAs. And I don’t expect it.”
“As a vet, you have to do what’s best for you,” Alualu said. “When it does matter and you have to play on Sundays, it’s whatever you have to do to be at your best. It’s not about being here at practice or OTAs. Of course, we want him here, but like I said whatever you have to do to prepare for the season is all that matters.”
Per Alan Saunders of Steelers Now, Tuitt sold his Pine Township home in January, which got people speculating if Tuitt was done with his football career in Pittsburgh. That doesn't appear to be the case, however.
“Everybody thought that because he sold his house, he wasn’t part of the team,” Heyward said via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You can rent anything. We’ll see him certainly.”
Heyward expanded and expressed confidence that Tuitt would play in 2022.
“Because I’m confident in Stephon Tuitt,” he said. “Last year was last year. We grow, we live, 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. I can imagine the situation he went through, but I think he’s in a much better place.
“It’s hard to move your family. I’m fortunate enough to have my family in Pittsburgh. But his family is elsewhere. To ask a guy to come during the offseason, is that fair? All we’re asking the guy is to be ready for Week 1. This is nothing to go crazy about. Let’s worry about the guys who are here, but I know he’s getting his work in as well.”