2021 Offseason Questions: Does Loss Of Alualu Turn DL Into Draft Need?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row, going 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason that resulted in their early exit.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Does the loss of Tyson Alualu turn the defensive line into a draft need?

Heading into free agency, the Steelers looked poised to return a very solid and deep defensive line. You start with Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt at the top, with Tyson Alualu in the middle, and supplemented by Chris Wormley, Carlos Davis, Isaiah Buggs, and Henry Mondeaux. They could do worse.

You take Alualu out of that equation, though, and then what does it look like? Suddenly, Buggs and Davis are competing for the starting nose tackle job, while they are scrambling to retain Wormley as the top rotational end after he contributed significantly less in his first season in Pittsburgh than he had in Baltimore.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t work. Davis and Buggs are both interesting young players who have the potential to be effective on the inside. Given how good Alualu was against the run, a downgrade there is inevitable, but that would apply to anybody that they could realistically bring in.

I do think a case can be made that the Steelers can be alright simply by retaining the guys that they have left—which basically consists of re-signing Wormley, hopefully on a veteran-minimum deal. At the same time, outside of Javon Hargrave, who is gone, the Steelers haven’t used higher than a sixth-round pick on a defensive lineman since Tuitt in 2014, so perhaps it’s time anyway.

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