Today will not be the first time ever in his professional career that veteran defensive lineman Tyson Alualu finds himself on the inactive list. a top-10 selection by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2010 NFL Draft, the eighth-year player has missed two games before over that span of time.
But today’s game will be the first that he misses due to injury. That is, of course, assuming that he ends up not playing. He suffered a shoulder injury during the season opener against the Cleveland Browns and is listed as doubtful after not practicing during the week.
The 6’4” Hawaii native had been an ironman in his career up to this point. During his first four seasons in the league, he started and played in all 16 games each year. He was demoted to a rotational player the following season, but still played all 16 games, and was reinserted into the starting lineup a year later, again playing every game.
That was 96 consecutive games played for him over his first six seasons. But then came a regime change at head coach, and Alualu was demoted again. He was a healthy scratch, even, for the first two games of that season. Four games away from 100 consecutive games played and he was made a healthy scratch.
After that, he dressed for the remaining 14 games of the 2016 season, and played in all 16 games during his first year with the Steelers in 2017, so from 2010 to 2017, he played in 126 of a possible 128 games, and the two for which he did not dress were because of a coach’s decision, and not because of his health.
That (likely) changes today. While he has dealt with injuries before, they usually came in the offseason (as in the case of his first season with the Steelers), or he was able to play through them. Perhaps he would even be able to play through this if the team would let him.
But it’s likely instead that the Steelers’ two active reserve linemen will be Daniel McCullers and L.T. Walton. After spending most of last season as a healthy scratch himself, McCullers was one of the actives along the line along with Alualu, with Walton the inactive.
But now there figures to be a helmet for both of them. and if Walton dresses, he will play. He has worked at every position along the line over his first three seasons in the NFL for the Steelers, and frankly, he is better suited to the end after being fitted for the backup nose tackle role last year over McCullers.
So ends a very impressive streak for Alualu, an underrated figure in the Steelers’ defensive front from a year ago. Cameron Heyward had been the Steelers’ own ironman prior to the 2016 season, during which he was ravaged by injuries. That was impressive, so what Alualu has done is even more so.