While the Pittsburgh Steelers late offseason signing of cornerback Joe Haden will likely go down in the books as the highest-profile and most-needed free agent addition for the organization in 2017, the early offseason addition of defensive end Tyson Alualu also needs a lot of recognition. Alualu, a former first-round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, fit in nicely with the Steelers defense in his first season in Pittsburgh.
Originally, the hope was that Alualu would only play sparingly throughout the 2017 regular season as a backup to starting defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. However, with Tuitt ultimately missing nearly five full games due to injuries, Alualu wound up playing much more than expected and ended the regular season having played 44.3% of all defensive snaps.
Alualu registered 39 total tackles during the recently concluded 2017 regular season with 14 of them going in the books as assists. Those totals aren’t bad being as his career high for total tackles in a single season prior to 2017 was 45. Alualu’s 4 sacks in 2017, however, was a new career high for him but it is worth pointing out that two of those came in the regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns.
Alualu’s biggest contribution for the Steelers in his first year in Pittsburgh was how he played against the run. According to independent stats kept by Pro Football Focus, Alualu played 165 total snaps against the run during the 2017 regular season on his way to registering 17 tackles and 11 assists. The California product recorded 13 total run stops within those numbers and his corresponding 7.9% run stop percentage was tops among all Steelers defensive linemen this season.
While it can’t be used as a very encompassing and reflective stat, opposing offenses averaged just 3.9 yards per carry during the regular season against the Steelers defense when Alualu was on the field. As a whole, the Steelers defense allowed 4.4 yards per carry during the regular season.
Alualu signed a two year, $6 million contract with the Steelers back in March with $1.25 million of that amount coming in the form of a signing bonus. In 2018 he’s set to earn a base salary of $3 million and carry a salary cap charge of $3.625 million. Based solely on the way he played for the Steelers in 2017, there’s no reason to think he won’t be back next season.