LATROBE, Pa. – First-round pick Ryan Shazier began running with the first-team defense in his first practice with the Steelers and hasn't stopped doing so since. Second-round pick Stephon Tuitt had to be much more patient, but his time finally arrived this weekend.
With nose tackle Steve McLendon not practicing on Saturday or Sunday at Saint Vincent College, the Steelers opted to slide veteran defensive end Cam Thomas into McClendon's spot and give Tuitt, a defensive end from Notre Dame, some reps with the first team-defense.
Coach Mike Tomlin cautioned the media not to read too much into Tuitt's temporary promotion.
"Sometimes I give guys a day off to see others," Tomlin explained. "We're just team building here and it's a part of the process."
But the first-team reps were nonetheless a big deal to Tuitt, and to his mother, Tamara Tuitt.
"They hit me with it just as I came onto the field (on Saturday)," Tuitt relayed. "They're just throwing different things at me to see if I can overcome things. I was focused at that time. But after I got off the practice field and called my mom I think I was in other places."
The Steelers considered Tuitt (6-foot-5, 303 pounds) a first-round caliber player who slipped to the second round of the draft because he had played overweight due to an injury suffered prior to his third and final season at Notre Dame.
The one-two punch of Shazier and Tuitt on the first two rounds provided for the Steelers "two excellent football players," defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau assessed, "who are going to add depth if not quality starters right away."
Shazier appears to be on the fast track toward becoming the latter. Tuitt, while not yet as advanced in his transition, is confident he's making rapid progress.
Take a look at photos of the Pittsburgh Steeler's eighth day of Training Camp.
"From the first day of camp to now I have grown and matured as a player tremendously, just knowing the offensive schemes, just knowing the (defensive) system," Tuitt insisted. "It's only a weekend, basically, but there's a lot to come and I'm very excited for it.
"The feedback that I got, I did a pretty good job. I did my assignment, what I was supposed to do. There's still a lot for me to learn, I'm still a rookie. I can't wait to keep moving forward."
Tuitt already has become familiar with one of the absolutes of the NFL game that all rookies must eventually respect and appreciate.
"Every day you have to come out here and work hard," Tuitt observed. "There's not a day you can take off. Even if you feel like it's a slow day you have to find a way to overcome it."
Perspective as it relates to playing time – how much and how quickly – is also a part of the Tuitt package.
"All I'm doing is working hard," he said. "That's the best thing I can give to my teammates, going onto that field every day and trying to get better."