When Tyson Alualu went down with a season-ending injury in the first quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2 of the 2021 season at Heinz Field, the prevailing thought was that those snaps prior to the fractured ankle would be the last snaps he’d play as a Pittsburgh Steeler.
At 34 years old (at the time of injury), Alualu had one year remaining on his deal, and suffering a significant lower body injury like he did, it would have made sense if he or the Steelers decided to move on from one another. Instead, Alualu rehabbed hard after surgery, allowing him to return for his final season under contract in Pittsburgh, where he’s slotted to hold down the starting nose tackle job once again in between Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.
Tyson Alualu with the spin move. Alex Highsmith with the swim. Steelers can get pass rush production from everywhere along the line. Not just their stars (Watt, Heyward, Tuitt). Why this should be another 50+ sack unit in 2021. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/gEcRZ2huls
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) August 25, 2021
Though season-ending injuries can be devastating on the field for the team and the player, they can also be equally difficult off the field as the player is then isolated away from the team in rehab. Alualu stayed around the team though, which lifted his spirits and allowed him to battle through a “tough” rehab process, allowing him to get back to doing what he loves: playing football.
“Yeah. I mean, it is definitely a tough injury, definitely a tough rehab, getting an injury like that,” Alualu said to reporters Tuesday, according to video via Steelers.com. “So, I think just being around the guys, both physically and mentally, I think was very helpful in that process. I just enjoyed those hard days and those tough times; I think those kind of build character to just trying to get back and be able to play on Sunday.
“So, my mindset was always, you know, get healthy and enjoy that grind to be back.”
— BlitzburghUSAVideos (@sdextrasmedia) November 20, 2020
Having just turned 35 years old on May 12, Alualu is slowing down in his career, and how that significant ankle injury and subsequent surgery last season will affect him on the field remains to be seen. Getting a guy like Alualu back in the middle of the defense though will help on and off the field, especially for a unit that was battered last season on the ground without its stout nose tackle.
Knowing what he lost last season and knowing how quickly a career can end, we should see a rather motivated Alualu in 2022, especially with it being a contract year on top of the time missed last season. This could very well be it for Alualu in his career as well, so there’s no doubt he’ll leave it all out on the field once again.