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: How many more years does Tyson Alualu have left in the tank?
The Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this offseason had the good fortune of being able to retain the services of Tyson Alualu, even if it took a bit of arm-twisting and a bout of a virus to make it happen. Having previously agreed in principle to return to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the big man caught Covid-19 and, in the time it had taken him to recover, which prevented him from flying down to take a physical and sign a contract, his teammates and coaches—and wife—helped change his mind.
The Alualus had recently built their new home in the area. Their children are in the schools here. They like it in Pittsburgh. They didn’t want to leave. I have every reason to believe that he will never play for another NFL team again.
My only question that I have left is—how much longer will he play? He is reported to have signed another (a third) two-year contract with the Steelers, which ties him to the team through 2022, at the end of which he will be entering his age-36 season.
But guys have played to that age or older along the defensive line before. Brett Keisel is an example for the Steelers, who turned 36 during the 2014 season, his final year, and he was still effective. Although not a lineman, James Harrison nearly played into his 40s.
Though physically demanding, the nose tackle position isn’t really one where you have to worry about a loss of athleticism and things of that nature. Provided that you retain your strength and take care of your body, you could age gracefully there.