The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Mike Tomlin saying that Tyson Alualu will get the first reps at nose tackle is an indictment of Daniel McCullers.
Explanation: Tyson Alualu has consistently played in the defensive end role in the Steelers’ defense, so with Mike Tomlin saying that he will get the first reps at nose tackle with Javon Hargrave’s departure, sighting a desire to lean on veteran experience, might not sound ideal for Daniel McCullers, who has been on the roster for six years.
Based on Tomlin’s own reasoning for his decision, it’s hard to see this as anything else but an indictment of McCullers. Only Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt have been with the Steelers longer than McCullers among defensive linemen, so if Tomlin was leaning on veteran experience and familiarity, then there is no reason that McCullers shouldn’t have been chosen, as the only nose tackle on the roster.
While the Steelers talked about Alualu as being position-flexible when he was first signed, they have never asked him to truly play the nose tackle spot before. This is reminiscent of when L.T. Walton was given reps and ultimately claimed the backup nose tackle job over McCullers a few years ago. He regained his role the following year, but nevertheless, it happened.
The first reps of work are rarely overly significant. And while McCullers has been with the Steelers longer, Alualu is going into his 11th NFL season. He’s been around not just the block, but the entire neighborhood, so he’s not a bad player to appeal to for veteran experience.
Combine that with the fact that there will be need for a new presence at nose tackle, and that getting Alualu as many reps there as possible will help him to play it when the season comes along, and it just makes logical sense that he would be given these early opportunities. Especially since this is the role McCullers has been playing for going on seven years already. He’s not going to show them anything he hasn’t already.