You’re either drafted a Steeler, or you become a Steeler. If you don’t, then you’re probably not going to last too long. Veteran guys like Joe Haden and Tyson Alualu became Steelers, which is why both are entering their fifth season with the team, after spending seven seasons with their original teams prior to that.
For Alualu, however, he almost got away this offseason. In actuality, he had agreed in principle to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team that originally drafted him. Between the time of the agreement and his opportunity to take a physical, however, he contracted COVID-19, preventing him from flying down to sign a contract.
By the time he recovered from the virus, he had a change of heart, and he and his family decided to take a little less money to stay in Pittsburgh, re-upping on a third two-year contract. His teammates and coaches made is clear that they wanted him to stay, and that certainly helped. Cameron Heyward chief among them.
“I think Tyson, he’s the good cop to my bad cop. He balances our locker room”, Heyward told reporters on Friday. “And then you look at his production, there’s not a lot of noses that do what he does. He’s able to be our nose, and then he’s able to be a depth rotational guy at end. It’s a unique combination. I just think he’s thrived here”.
Alualu first signed with the Steelers in 2017 after gradually falling out of favor through numerous regime changes in Jacksonville. He was brought in to serve as premiere depth behind Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, but injuries provided him ample opportunity to get on the field during that time.
After Javon Hargrave left in free agency last year, the Steelers moved Alualu from end to nose tackle, and he acclimated well to the new position, having one of the strongest seasons of his entire career in 2020, before a late-season knee injury affected him.
But he’s back for more, in part thanks to his teammates going the whole nine yards to get him to stay. “I don’t know how much [of a role] I had in convincing him”, Heyward admitted, “but I wanted to let him know that we will miss you if you were gone”.
There’s no question that Alualu has become a beloved teammate in that locker room over the course of the past four-plus years. He is as much a fabric of the team as anybody who came in there originally as a draft pick. He wouldn’t be easy to replace for what he does on the field, but that applies for who he is off of it as well.