It wouldn’t exactly be accurate to portray any of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ outside signings during free agency this offseason as big splashes, but if any of them could even contend for that distinction, it would be the addition of veteran defensive lineman Tyson Alualu, who is expected to be a key rotational player this season.
As far as making waves go, that is typically as big a ripple as you will get from the Steelers’ front office. They have dipped their toes a bit further in recent years, but have had mixed results. With Alualu not being brought in to start, however, the pressure is reduced.
Even so, his position coach, John Mitchell, seems rather pleased with him, and if the preseason opener is anything to go by, he would seem to have a good reason for it. Alualu should give the Steelers their best depth in years.
One play that we can look at comes earlier in the second quarter, with the Giants inside the red zone following a turnover. The Steelers are showing their 4-3 over front with Alualu and Javon Hargrave along the interior.
The Giants double-teamed him off the snap and did get him sideways, but he held position reasonably well and was able to make the tackle, even if it provided New York with a first down. Vince Williams was blocked out of this play and Tyler Matakevich failed to get home shooting a gap.
Now, late in the second quarter, with the Giants approaching the red zone again, the Steelers sent in a cat blitz off the opposite side of Alualu, but he, playing right defensive tackle, did well to get pressure off that side and provide contain to help get Mike Hilton home.
Very late in the half, with just 23 seconds to go, the veteran was able to rip under the outside shoulder of the left guard, even bending the inside edge to put pressure on the quarterback, but a hold by the lineman helped prevent him from getting home. The hold did draw a flag and negated a completed pass for a first down.
Getting back in late in the third quarter, the former Jaguar did exactly what you want to see defending a stretch zone run. Getting double teamed by the guard and center, he kept his feet moving and his shoulders (roughly) parallel to the line of scrimmage, blowing up the running lane and making the tackle on his own for a loss of a yard.
Alualu possesses the highest pedigree among reserve defensive linemen than the Steelers have had since Brett Keisel’s final season, and he has the potential to be even better than that. He is a guy that they would trust to start without hesitation, and it’s been a while since I could write that.