Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

With Heyward out, Tuitt, Defense Stepped Up in Win

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

With Heyward out, Tuitt, Defense Stepped Up in Win

Article excerpt

CLEVELAND -- They told me Cam Heyward wasn't going to play Sunday for the Steelers. Imagine my surprise when I saw him tearing through the Cleveland Browns offense and the cold, damp Lakefront wind all afternoon. One minute, he was in the backfield, sacking the Browns' gun-shy quarterbacks. The next minute, he was racing downfield faster than a defensive end should be able to go to deliver two of the filthiest open-field hits you'll ever see. He didn't look like a man with a torn pectoral muscle to me.

That was Heyward, right?

The best player on the FirstEnergy Stadium turf, by far?

No. 91?

You know what, you're absolutely right. Heyward wore No. 97. Stephon Tuitt is No. 91.

"That's a brother to me," Tuitt said of Heyward, who really is done for the year after injuring his pec against the Dallas Cowboys a week earlier. "He's our captain, our leader. He was looking to me to step up. I came out here and played for him."

Say what you will about the competition. The Browns are 0-11, clearly one of the worst teams in NFL history. Just don't suggest to Tuitt that he should give back the Steelers' 24-9 win and his sizable contributions to it: 2 sacks, 2 tackles for a loss, 4 quarterback hurries and 2 ferocious downfield hits.

"On any given Sunday," Tuitt said. "That's not just a saying. That's real in the NFL. We respect Cleveland. We're happy to get out of here with a win."

Tuitt felt the negativity last week after the Steelers defense couldn't hold a 30-29 lead against the Cowboys in the final 42 seconds. He heard the talk about how this defense - his defense - might be the worst in franchise history.

"It bothered me a lot," Tuitt said. "I don't want to be known as that."

Tuitt played as if he were angry against the Browns. His sack of Cody Kessler late in the first quarter was just the start for the Steelers defense, which ended up with eight sacks. James Harrison got one in the third quarter, giving him a franchise-record 77 with the Steelers and prompting long-time teammate Ben Roethlisberger to say, "He's one of the best I've ever seen or played with."

Who am I to argue? …

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