During his seven-year tenure with the Jacksonville Jaguars, first-round draft pick Tyson Alualu patiently awaited the promised turnaround for the franchise. A couple of first-round quarterbacks into it by now, the team seems to be making headway, but there is uncertainty over how far they can go with what they currently have available.
Alualu still hopes to see the Jaguars turn things around and become a stable and winning franchise. He even told Jacksonville reporters that he still roots for his former team on Sundays—but not this Sunday, of course, when his new team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, will play host to his former employer.
“I’m happy for those guys”, he said. “I’d always said over the years that I wanted to be a part of the turnaround, having been through so much”. The team was met with sparingly little success over the course of his tenure there. But still, he said, “when we’re not playing the Jags, I’m always rooting for them”.
Jacksonville also means much more than that to him, however. After all, his family is still there. Even though he signed a three-year contract with the Steelers, he and his wife decided that it would be best if they not uproot this year, so her and their five children remain in Florida.
“Everything my kids know is there – their schooling and activities” he told reporters about why his family had remained behind. “It was a hard decision for this year”, he continued, but he added that he would probably move them up to Pittsburgh after the year—the school year, I would imagine.
While he wanted to see through a turnaround in Jacksonville, however, he said that he felt less “disappointment about not being back with the Jags” than he did “excitement for a new opportunity” with a team that reached the AFC Championship game a season ago with the Steelers.
Though he spent his career playing in a defense that was primarily run as a 4-3, he said that his experience over the past couple of seasons playing as “the bigger end” helped him transition to the Steelers’ 3-4 look, though of course he spends a lot of his time in the nickel here, where he is a defensive tackle.
Today’s game will be the third in which they have been involved in an immediate reunion of sorts. In the season opener against the Browns, long-time Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden made his debut against his former team, while former Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates was also on the opposite sideline.
In week three against the Bears, the Steelers welcomed back yet another familiar face in former wide receiver Markus Wheaton, though he ended up leaving the game without a catch. The logistics of relocation and the mental impact that has on players is often an overlooked aspect of the game, truth be told.