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The Steelers have been hopeful at various times that stalwart defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt could return at some point this season, but league sources indicated that it is highly unlikely he plays this season, even if the team reaches the postseason.

Tuitt was one of the most impactful interior defensive linemen in the NFL the past few years, and one of the more irreplaceable players on the Pittsburgh roster. His ability to stuff the run and also collapse the pocket presented unique challenges to opposing linemen and his absence has been one of the critical issues face a sagging Steelers defense in 2021.

Tuitt was away from the team for much of the offseason dealing with the death of his brother from a hit and run accident, with the team offering its full support and resources to help him through the tragedy. Tuitt suffered an injury late in camp trying to get back into playing shape and has been on injured reserve.

Coach Mike Tomlin has been noncommittal for the most part about Tuitt's status, but league sources indicated that a return in the next few weeks is not expected and even seeing Tuitt able to perform in the postseason would be a stretch. The Steelers have tried to adapt to his absence in several ways, including moving star end Cam Heyward to tackle, but nothing has worked well, and Pittsburgh's rushing defense has been an acute problem all season long.