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: Tyson Alualu is or should be making a full-time move to nose tackle.
Explanation: Entering the new league year, the Steelers had too many defensive ends, with Alualu, Chris Wormley, and Isaiah Buggs already behind Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. If Alualu is full-time at nose tackle (and still playing in the nickel, of course), that balances out the line better.
Let’s not forget that there’s a reason the Steelers traded for Chris Wormley—in the final year of his rookie contract, paying him over $3 million. He is their top reserve at defensive end now, the number three guy behind Heyward and Tuitt. He is a younger version of Alualu, and perhaps with some teaching, might even offer a bit more in the pass rush.
Alualu moving to nose tackle also opens up more opportunities for Buggs to play, and he offers more pass-rush potential than either Alualu or Wormley, which is welcome for obvious reasons.
And then there is the fact that nose tackle is not a position that he has really formally played in the NFL. If they allow him to focus on that role, he will be able to play it better. Given that the Steelers’ base defense is the nickel anyway, this isn’t really a substantial change in the first place.
It’s comes down to gameday helmets. If the Steelers are going to continue to dress five linemen, then there has to be a player who plays or is capable of playing both nose tackle and defensive end, the way Chris Hoke and Steve McLendon had in the past. Wormley would dress as the strict end, while Alualu would be the nose tackle who can also play end. Buggs would be inactive. You’re certainly not going to dress him over Alualu.
There’s also the simple fact that he has been playing well as a defensive end for the past three years. This is merely an expansion of his portfolio. It would make little sense to remove the deadliest arrow from his quiver. It didn’t benefit L.T. Walton when they did it with him, even if, granted, it did work for McLendon.