A more representative performance

The difference in effectiveness, individually and collectively, was apparent.

And it was personified, perhaps, by Stephon Tuitt.

The Steelers' fifth-year defensive end had his hands on Packers quarterback Brett Hundley on Aug. 16 in Green Bay, but Hundley slipped from Tuitt's grasp and scrambled 10 yards for a touchdown. That was one of four TDs allowed by the defense the Packers also kicked three field goals in what became a 51-34 preseason drubbing.

But it was different story on Saturday afternoon at Heinz Field against Tennessee, almost from the first defensive snap. Tuitt broke through and got to quarterback Marcus Mariota on the Titans' second offensive play. And this time the only place Mariota went was to the deck.

"It feels good to get him down," Tuitt acknowledged.

Tuitt's first sack of the preseason highlighted a performance that included a couple of tackles, including one for a loss, and two quarterback hits.

Collectively, the first-team defense surrendered just 52 total net yards and held the Titans to a 2.0 average per carry on 12 rushing attempts in the first two quarters.

And the Steelers won, 16-6.

"Week in and week out I'm always working on myself to get better," Tuitt said. "This wasn't a surprise to me, that I had a game like this.

"It's just constantly getting better week in and week out."

Tuitt had been having a relatively quiet preseason prior to the Tennessee game and had accounted for just one tackle in limited action against the Eagles on Aug. 9 and against the Packers.

That wasn't because he had been coasting, to a degree, with an eye toward first and foremost surviving the preseason healthy after enduring an injury-plagued 2017 season.

"It's not about just getting through it," Tuitt insisted. "You never want to be in that position. You want to be able to do whatever you do as a player, do that. It helps you with your process of becoming a better player.

"That's what I've been focusing on."

That, and "doing the things that I'm weak at to become a better, stronger player," Tuitt added.

It was a different Steelers defense against Tennessee, both in terms of who was doing the defending and how well they were doing it individually and collectively.

And they'll be better off for the experience, Tuitt maintained.

"For us to have a good chance to go in there and play a good half of football and have more reps under our belt was good for us to be acclimated to what a real game situation could be like," he said.

Especially when the reps more closely resemble the ones Tuitt and the Steelers are envisioning.

The Steelers prepare for the Week 4 preseason matchup against the Carolina Panthers.

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