Devil’s Advocate: Walton Over Alualu

L.T. Walton

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Can L.T. Walton surpass Tyson Alualu as the top backup defensive end?

I don’t know, but I know one thing is for certain: the Steelers are not about to complain about having too much depth along the defensive line. Lack of depth has been an issue over the course of the past three seasons, and they are looking to change that now.

If you consider now that the team’s base package consists of Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt as the two down linemen, then you have Javon Hargrave, Alualu, Walton, and Johnny Maxey as the most likely nickel defenders, not to mention nose tackle Daniel McCullers.

The Steelers signed the veteran Alualu after whiffing on veteran reserve help in Cam Thomas and Ricardo Mathews over the course of the past three years. In that sense, it would be a bit disappointing if Alualu slides down the depth chart. But if he does, it will be because of Walton’s play, most likely.

He needs to continue to grow, but last season was a good start. The former sixth-rounder played a lot of valuable snaps at the end of last year and got better and better as he played more, becoming pretty stout against the run in assignment-sound play.

Where he could fall short of the veteran, however, and not that Alualu himself is a stalwart in that area, is in the pass-rush. Even as he improved week to week, coaches still talked about wanting to see more, maybe even a lot more, from Walton in terms of being able to get after the passer.

According to Jacob Klinger, Walton has picked up this offseason where he left off during the year, and that even got him some snaps with the first-team defense at nose tackle while Hargrave was injured. But we still have much to see from Alualu, who missed all but minicamp so far.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

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