Player: Tyson Alualu
Position: Defensive End
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2018 Salary Cap Hit: $3,000,000
2018 Season Breakdown:
Tyson Alualu did not have nearly as prominent a season for the Steelers in 2018 as he did the year before in his first with the team. That year, he was called upon to start five games, four due to injury, and saw extended playing time in others as well.
He did make two starts last season in place of Stephon Tuitt while he dealt with injuries, but he didn’t have the same impact. He did record seven tackles and played against the run well in one start against his former team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he struggled the following week against the Denver Broncos.
He only logged more than one tackle in three of the 14 games that he did not start, and never more than two, dropping from 39 tackles in 2017 to only 22 a season ago. His run defense overall was not as stout as it was in the previous season, during which I felt he was the team’s most consistent run defender.
And while he has never offered much as a pass rusher, he really struggled to generate pressure this time around, failing to record any sacks after adding a career-high four the season before that. according to Pro Football Focus, he had just 10 hurries on the season with no quarterback hits.
Alualu was more productive with his snaps a season ago, but Javon Hargrave also encroached on his territory more this year. He became a less important piece of the puzzle with the third-year defensive tackle absorbing more of the snaps the Cameron Heyward and Tuitt weren’t taking.
Free Agency Outlook:
This is an interesting one, especially because all of the Steelers’ offensive line depth is set to hit free agency at the same time. It’s not just Alualu, who is completing a two-year contract worth $6 million in total. There’s also L.T. Walton finishing up his rookie contract and Daniel McCullers, who signed a one-year deal last offseason.
Alualu was the veteran of the group and the only one of the three that the Steelers ever really wanted to play, so I’m sure they’re not in a rush to part with him, and frankly on the wrong side of 30, heading into his 10th season, and spending the past two years as a backup, his market is not going to be at the $3 million mark anymore.
It would certainly be nice if they were able to retain him on a one-year, veteran-minimum qualifying contract, but even if they had to pay more than that, I think it would be worth it to prevent a significant amount of turnover, as we saw a few years ago with negative consequences.