PITTSBURGH (AP) — Stephon Tuitt’s NFL career is over.
The Pittsburgh Steelers defenseman announced his retirement on Wednesday, saying he felt called to finish the game following the death of his younger brother in June 2021 and Tuitt’s recent graduation from Notre Dame.
“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to represent the city of Pittsburgh for the past eight seasons and am blessed to exit this game with my health,” Tuitt said in a statement released by the team.
Tuitt had 34 1/2 sacks with the Steelers, who picked him in the second round of the 2014 draft. He had a career-best 11 sacks in 2020 and helped Pittsburgh win the AFC North title.
However, Tuitt did not play last season after his younger brother Richard Barlett III died in a hit-and-run accident in Georgia last June. Tuitt also underwent knee surgery over the summer and despite undergoing extensive rehab he did not return to action. His team-mates have expressed optimism Tuitt would play in 2022, with good friend and defensive captain Cam Heyward saying he believes Tuitt will come back “sooner or later”.
“My brother was injured last year,” Heyward said last week. “And he had to do some things in his life to get right. His knee wasn’t right. I can’t imagine being in the situation he went through but I think he’s in a much better place.”
But instead of standing alongside Heyward, Tuitt will instead continue with his life’s work.
“I know I have a calling to go beyond football,” Tuitt said. “I want to thank everyone for the love and support they’ve shown on and off the pitch.”
The Steelers gave Tuitt plenty of room to figure out his future in the offseason and also added depth to the position should Tuitt decide not to come back. Pittsburgh re-signed defensive tackle Montravius Adams and drafted defensive end DeMarvin Leal from Texas A&M in the third round of the draft.
How they will replace Tuitt will be settled in the coming months.
“His success on and off the field speaks volumes for who he is as a person and a player,” Steelers general manager Omar Khan said in a statement. “Stephon has always handled himself with class and maturity as in his personal life he continues to be a great husband, father, son and family man. … We are excited for what lies ahead in his life and will continue to support him in any way we can.”
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