With elite defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt's return to play still murky, the Steelers engaged in trade talks with the Eagles ahead of last week's deadline centered around perennial Pro Bowl tackle Fletcher Cox, league sources said, with the sides unable to agree on a value.
The Eagles were focused primarily on moving players with expiring contracts, sources said, but Cox was brought up in some conversations, with the Steelers showing interest. Pittsburgh has a limited cap situation, but Cox's recently restructured deal afforded the team the flexibility required to add such a player. However, sources said it would have required at least a third-round pick to pry Cox away, and the Steelers were not willing to do so.
The Steelers have already parted with more draft capital than is the norm for them in recent years, dealing for Minkah Fitzpatrick and moving up in the draft to select Devin Bush. The team is holding out hope that Tuitt, one of the most disruptive linemen in the NFL in 2020, can return and make a similar impact at some point this season, but that remains in question.
Tuitt is working back from an extended absence recovering from injury and grieving the loss of his younger brother, Richard Bartlett, who was killed in a hit and run in June. The Steelers have given Tuitt their full support and all of the time and space he needs to be able to come back and play the game. The team has no real timetable as to when that might be, however, and with Tyson Alualu out for the season and the defensive line in some flux beyond standout Cameron Heyward, adding an impact lineman like Cox was of obvious interest to the Steelers. They were not the only interested party.
The Steelers do anticipate Tuitt returning this season, but he has yet to return to practice and would need several weeks to ramp up from there to be ready to play again. Though he lacks the profile of defensive teammates like TJ Watt or Heyward or Fitzpatrick, Tuitt is incredibly impactful and his presence makes a significant difference to a defense that is already among the better in football.
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