Tuitt looking for bigger and better things

2016 minicamp is underway at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

Defensive end Stephon Tuitt spent last season making strides but he's looking ahead, not behind.

"Any player, you want to get better than you were last year," Tuitt maintained. "The year before I was coming in, the new guy, just trying to learn and get my feet wet. The year after that I was ready to play.

"Now, I know the playbook. I'm just ready to go out there and dominate."

Tuitt arrived as a No. 2 pick from Notre Dame in 2014.

His starts increased from four to 14 and his sacks from one to six-and-a-half as a sophomore last season.

And he's expecting even more in 2016, an anticipated domination that will be as audible as it is recognizable.

"When you hear my name a bunch of times from the commentators, that's how you'll know," he insisted.

Tuitt has high expectations for himself and for the Steelers' defense.

"I'm very encouraged," he said. "I do believe, me personally, that we're going to have the No. 1 defense in the NFL. We were on our way last year. We just have to pick up where we left off.

"We put more trust in each other (as the 2015 season progressed). We built a relationship. As a defense, that's what you have to have."

The Steelers will also have to have some reinforcements step up along the defensive line. Tuitt and fellow defensive end Cam Heyward are the only established returning starters.

But Tuitt likes what he's seen during OTAs and veteran mandatory mini camp in terms of players demonstrating the potential to emerge as contributors.

"Ricardo (Matthews), L.T. (Walton), 'Big Dan' (McCullers), (Lavon) Hooks, all the other guys that came into OTAs have been doing a great job, day in and day out, practicing hard, running to the ball, doing everything that we need," Tuitt said.

That includes third-round pick Javon Hargrave, a defensive tackle from South Carolina State.

"He's doing an awesome job," Tuitt continued. "He's studying, he's smart. He'll do something once or twice in practice and you're like, 'Wow, that was a great move.'

"He's going to be on his way."

The Steelers also have an influx of potential new contributors in the defensive backfield.

But according to Tuitt, it'll start up front this season.

"A good secondary is going to have a good defensive line," he said. "We have to be a great defensive line. When you have a great defensive line, you have a great secondary. If our secondary isn't great, it's because of us not doing our jobs. I put the pressure on us as a defensive line.

"Me, Cam, Dan, Ricardo, L.T., anybody who comes in the game, we gotta dominate."

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