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: The Steelers won’t have a ‘starting’ nose tackle this season, but will be determined based on matchups.
Explanation: In the post-Javon Hargrave world, the Steelers can’t necessarily be sure that they have a good answer at nose tackle. If that was Daniel McCullers, they would have known about it before his seventh season. Tyson Alualu is a veteran, but at defensive end, and is adjusting to playing inside regularly. The team could decide to mix and match whom they used based on their opponent, or even take the ‘hot hand’ approach.
Put simply, if you don’t have a primary nose tackle, then don’t act like you do. It’s fine, for example, if McCullers ‘starts’ one week, and then Alualu does the next, provided that that decision is made based on sound reasoning. If the team feels McCullers matches up better against one team and Alualu against the other, then that is the approach that is wisest.
The Steelers have given Alualu a lot of work because he needs it more. He may have been in the league for a long time, but not while doing what the Steelers will be asking him to do this year. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be the primary nose tackle. And he’ll still have a role in the 3-4 front, too. We’ve already heard said that there will be times McCullers and Alualu will be on the field at the same time.
Alualu is going to be the primary nose tackle, in however that translates in terms of snaps, simply because it’s obvious the Steelers don’t view McCullers that way. If he was capable of that, they would have known it by now and acted accordingly. Just his very presence on the roster for seven years doesn’t prove it to be the case.
Not even injury would change that this year, because they now have Chris Wormley to act as the primary defensive end backup. He would start outside, and Alualu could still focus primarily on this role, rather than moving over.