I can’t help but wonder how many snaps Tyson Alualu would have played during Sunday’s game had Pittsburgh Steelers starting defensive end Stephon Tuitt not suffered an arm injury that limited him to just a couple of snaps. But one thing seems assured, and that is that he is going to be seeing a lot more snaps over the next few weeks or so, give or take, than he otherwise would have gotten.
The Steelers appear to have dodged a bullet with the informal news that Tuitt’s injury is expected to be relatively minor in comparison to late-Sunday reports that the team feared he has suffered a torn tricep, which would have inevitably sidelined him for the rest of the season.
But they already took the important step of insulating themselves against such an injury during the offseason when they brought Alualu in in the first place. A former first-round draft pick, the ex-Jaguar certainly has the athletic ability and skill set to be a performer, even though he never actually lived up to his draft status.
In Tuitt’s absence, he recorded five total tackles during the game, though three of his tackles were assists. All five of his tackles came against the run, and four of them went down as run ‘stops’, or tackles that prevented the offense from having a successful play. The one offensive ‘win’ was a three-yard gain on a second-and-two play. He had an assist on one tackle for a loss.
Alualu showed in his play on the field on Sunday just why the Steelers brought him in this year in the first place, and it presented quite a contrast to how the defense was able to weather the storm of injuries along the defensive line just a year ago.
When Cameron Heyward missed two games in the first half of the season, the defensive line really started to fall to pieces, a fact that even Tuitt acknowledged. He talked on multiple occasions during the offseason about how that was a growing experience for him as his role on the team as a leader evolved.
The bigger problem was not Tuitt, of course, but rather the Steelers’ options for filling in for Heyward, which was at first primarily Ricardo Mathews, who was a veteran-minimum free agent signing. Eventually he was largely replaced by L.T. Walton, but the third-year player offers little in the way of the pass rush.
Alualu is a skilled, experienced, and well-rounded player, one who is good enough to be a starter but also humble enough to be comfortable in a rotational role. Still, hopefully he will not have to start too many games, as the fewer games he starts, that means, the quicker Tuitt will have returned to the field.