The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is over, already eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 42-21 loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They just barely made the postseason with a 9-7-1 record and a little help from their friends.
This is an offseason of major change, with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the possible retirement of general manager Kevin Colbert, and the decisions about the futures of many important players to be made, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others.
Aside from exploring their options at the quarterback position, the top global priority, once again, figures to be addressing the offensive line, which they did not do quite adequately enough a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. looks like he may have a future as a full-time starter, but Kendrick Green was clearly not ready. Chukwuma Okorafor is heading into free agency, as is Trai Turner.
These are the sorts of topics 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. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: Would the return of a healthy Tyson Alualu and Stephon Tuitt alone be enough to turn the run defense into a respectable group?
If we took last year’s defense, as it was, and merely swapped in Tyson Alualu at nose tackle and Stephon Tuitt at left defensive end, where Isaiah Buggs/Montravius Adams and Chris Wormley played, respectively, would the Steelers have had a solid, respectable run defense?
In a season in which they basically only had Alualu for one game and Tuitt for none at all, Pittsburgh allowed 2483 rushing yards—the most in the NFL—on 498 rushing attempts, allowing an average of five rushing yards per attempt, with 17 rushing touchdowns against them.
Adding two plus defenders along the defensive line is obviously going to help. But what would the run defense have looked like last year, assuming everything else—Devin Bush and Joe Schobert at inside linebacker, for instance—was the same?
What could the 2022 run defense look like with Alualu and Tuitt back and healthy, and without any other meaningful upgrades? Basically, are Tuitt and Alualu themselves good enough to account for the shifting of an awful run defense to a solid run defense?
Generally speaking, the fingers weren’t necessarily being pointed primarily at Wormley and Adams when it came to the run defense, but even so, a unit could still be significantly improved with different players in the lineup. Tuitt in particular is a much less passive defender than Wormley with the ability to blow up plays routinely.
And finally, will the Steelers actually get a healthy Tuitt and Alualu back in 2022? Both are under contract. Alualu has said he isn’t retiring going out on an injury like this. Tuitt—we’ve heard nothing from him, and what we have heard from others strongly indicates that they believe he could be considering retirement.