For a year in which the Pittsburgh Steelers signed four players during unrestricted free agency, we certainly have not talked about them much. Perhaps the least-discussed among the group would be the one who got the biggest contract, that being former Jaguars first-round draft pick Tyson Alualu, who was signed to add depth to the defensive line.
It was only four years ago that the Steelers seemed to have a spoil of riches along the defensive line, including the likes of Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel as depth defensive linemen, but the team has struggled to find adequate replenishments for that talent pool in the interim, which is why they made the move for Alualu.
Especially given the injuries that Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt have dealt with over the course of the past year, it seemed only to put more emphasis on the need, and the desire, to find a player who could do a better job of stepping up and filling in whenever a starter is on the sideline.
It would also be desirable, of course, to be able to give Heyward and Tuitt more breaks during games rather than asking them to consistently play 85 percent or more of the snaps of every game. In terms of in-game priority, there is no position for which rotational depth is more important than along the defensive line.
With Heyward easing his way into offseason practices after recovering from a torn pectoral muscle that ended his 2016 season, and Tuitt also sidelined after recently having surgery, now would be an ideal time for Alualu to be getting some meaningful reps during OTAs.
But, of course, that is not happening, as you might well have already known, as he, too, has been sidelined while recovering from a calf injury that he suffered during the offseason. While he goes through warmups, that is about the extent of his current level of activity.
“I don’t ever think you can know enough, especially coming to a new team”, Alualu told reporters during a recent practice, according to Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I always want to be out there and just work with guys and put in the hard work that they do. That builds camaraderie, and I know how important that is in a group”.
Alualu is coming over from a different team, of course, and adjustments will be inevitable. “Being in a new scheme, you want to come in and get those things down, knock off the rust and pick up how things are done here”, he said. “I take a lot of mental reps and know some things from being a vet, but it’s different actually going out there and taking those live reps”.
It would be beneficial if he is at least able to get in some meaningful reps during the Steelers’ minicamp before they go off on break ahead of training camp. Rutter writes that Alualu is hoping to be back as early as this week for the final round of OTAs.