Nose tackle Tyson Alualu has reversed course and resigned with the Steelers for two years. Just 12 days ago, word broke that Tyson Alualu was returning to Jacksonville, the team that had drafted him, on a two year deal.
- Not only was this a surprise, but it also amounted to majorish blow to the Steelers depth chart.
This was a done deal. The Steelers responded by resigning Chris Wormley to a two year deal, a move they otherwise may not have made. On “Asked and Answered,” Steelers Digest editor Bob Labriola rationalized the Wormley resigning and tried to put Alualu’s departure in context.
- But apparently a failed COVID-19 test and the quarantine that followed forced Alualu to reconsider his decision.
Teammates Cam Heyward and Joe Haden lobbied Alualu to stay and ultimately swayed the nose tackle. Thus the Steelers have their third major surprise of the off season, the first being JuJu Smith-Schuster’s return the second being Steven Nelson’s departure.
The move helps the Steelers, but it also reveals a hidden benefit to lagging a step (or several) behind the 24/7 Steelers News cycle.
A Day Late, But This Time Not a Dollar Short
The conventional wisdom driving sports-focused sites is to publish “Content” immediately after news breaks. That wisdom isn’t lost on this site and in some form or fashion we try to do that. When possible.
- But the realities of the digital workplace and the 12 hour plus days that come with it, are not conducive to timely blogging.
Usually this hurts the site. Being late to the punch means not getting on social media when a topic is hot and being absent on Google when search volumes spike. But sometimes there’s an upside. James Harrison’s messy divorce with the Steelers was one of them. This is another.
- When news broke of Tyson Alualu’s departure, the mental outlines of an article titled “Soft in the Middle” immediately formed.
The argument that the strength of the Steelers defense is measured up the middle, from nose tackle, to inside linebacker, to safety came to fore. Those arguments gelled with memories of Alualu anticipating his first playoff game against the Jaguar.
- The situation seemed too ironic to be true.
Alualu and the Steelers playoff implosion against the Jaguars came in large part because the middle of their defense was soft. Yet no one could argue that since then Tyson Alualu has strengthened the center of the Steelers defense.
The 2020 season offered no better example. The Steelers defense had started the season rock-solid against the run. It remained stout after losing Devin Bush, but faltered when Alualu went down. The question was going to be, could Alualu’s departure defy conventional wisdom and transform itself into addition by subtraction?
Woulda been an interesting article. Might have generated lots of clicks. Alas, there was no time.
- But no fuss, no muss. That storyline is now moot.
Alualu is back, and that’s a good thing – if taken in context.
Alaualu’s Return Delivers Depth and Flexibility
In Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt the Steelers have two spectacular defensive ends. Tyson Alualu showed last year he’s more than capable of manning the middle. With that said, let’s keep in mind that Alualu turns 34 next month.
- Players can quickly lose a step to Father Time at that age.
The Steelers have high hopes for Carlos Davis. Isaiah Buggs struggled more than he flashed, but he did have his moments. Lamarr Jackson concurs. Henry Mondeaux also showed some moxie in his limited work last season.
The best-case scenario for the Steelers on defensive line would be for Buggs or Davis to step forward and claim the starting nose tackle role. That would allow Alualu to become the 4th defensive lineman, the role he was brought to Pittsburgh to play. Whether that happens or not will be determined on the fields at St. Vincents (hopefully) or during preseason games.
- Today the idea that defense line could be a position of stability, if not strength in Pittsburgh is plausible.
Two days ago, this was fantasy. The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette opined the Steelers were an injury away from ” a problem” on defensive line. He was right, and the only thing Pittsburgh could have done to change that was invest a premium pick in a nose tackle or defensive end during the 2021 NFL Draft – picks that the Steelers must use on offensive line, running back and/or cornerback.
Now they don’t need to do so. And that’s a good thing.