Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: DE Tyson Alualu
Stock Value: Even
The Steelers allowed all three of their backup defensive linemen to hit unrestricted free agency this year. They ended up signing two of them (Alualu and defensive tackle Daniel McCullers) while allowing L.T. Walton’s contract to expire. The four-year veteran remains unsigned.
With the opening on the depth chart, the team used one of their three sixth-round draft picks this year on a defensive lineman, Isaiah Buggs out of Alabama, the second year in a row that they have selected an Alabama lineman that their defensive line coach, Karl Dunbar, worked with while there.
And while they did add a player to the room, I think this has very little impact on Alualu’s status, and in fact if anything may be to his advantage. Assuming that Buggs actually makes the roster and also earns a helmet on game day, I think it would be preferable for the whole time, including Alualu, if the rookie were used in obvious passing situations.
That is not an area in which Alualu has ever excelled, his four sacks in 2017 being basically a complete anomaly. But where he really plays well is as the conventional 3-4 defensive end, capable of both one-gapping and two-gapping against the run, and is arguably the best run defender on the team.
I’m a believer in only asking players to do what they do well if you can help it, and I think adding a rotational lineman who can get after the passer is something that should have been explored with more diligence in previous years, as this will also be good for their starters.
Regardless of Buggs, though, Alualu will remain the team’s number four lineman, the one who would start games if there is an injury to Cameron Heyward or Stephon Tuitt, as has been the case for the past two seasons. So in that regard, and overall, I have his stock as pretty much even coming out of the draft.