Cameron Heyward absorbs most of the attention as it concerns the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive line. After all, he ought to be entitled. He did record 20 sacks over the past two seasons, tied for the team league with T.J. Watt in that span. Stephon Tuitt plays his second fiddle, and Javon Hargrave are next, but they all get their attention to some degree.
After that, it’s not a lot of glory. Even for Tyson Alualu, who once upon a time, back in 2010, was a top-10 draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars before signing with Pittsburgh in free agency originally in 2017 for two years and $6 million in total. He re-signed for a very similar contract this offseason.
Not just because he enjoyed his time in Pittsburgh, but because he sees something in this Steelers team that can be something more than he has ever experienced in his career. He has only gone to the playoffs once in his nine years. He wants to chase a championship.
“I just have got a feeling of what they’re building here, that we kind of have what it takes”, he told reporters last week during the team’s mandatory minicamp, according to Chris Adamski for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You want to be part of something great, and I think this is going to be it”.
During his first season with the Steelers, the team went 13-3, posting an extended winning streak through the middle of the season, the only blemish being a questionable loss to the New England Patriots.
That loss knocked them from the top seed to the second seed, which resulted in their facing the Jaguars in the Divisional Round, whom they would lose to. So Alualu tasted the postseason, for just a bit, and then quickly had it taken away from him. Worse, the Steelers lost out on a playoff berth over the final two weeks of the 2018 season, not even qualifying this time around. Yet he is optimistic for 2019.
“It’s just a group of guys that we have here made it so nice and made it easier decision for me to come back and try to chase that ring”, he said, and the group of players that I named at the top of this article has a lot to do with it. the Steelers have one of the most talented 3-4 defensive front lines in the NFL, the three starters combining for about 20 sacks as a group last year.
Alualu didn’t contribute to that sack total—he did have a career-high four in 2017—but he remained, and will continue to be, a very valuable part of the group as the first man off the bench. He has had to start several games due to injury the past two years, and played big roles in others.
His strength is against the run, arguably the team’s best run defender, but he can occasionally offer a spark against the pass. Perhaps with Hargrave taking on a bigger role in the nickel and maybe even effort from Isaiah Buggs, the team won’t have to put him in too many pass-rushing situations. He’s more worried about chasing a title than a quarterback in particular.