The loss of standout defensive end Stephon Tuitt to retirement earlier this week has many outside the organization raising concerns regarding the depth and overall consistency of the defensive line, but inside the Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room it’s business as usual as guys ramp up to prepare for the 2022 regular season.
One of those guys with a business as usual approach is the 35-year-old Tyson Alualu, who is returning from a season-ending injury himself, having played just 57 snaps in 2021 before exiting in Week 2 against the Las Vegas Raiders with a fractured ankle that required surgery.
Though Tuitt is a massive loss on the field and in the locker room from a friendship and leadership perspective for guys like Alualu, the versatility that some guys along the defensive line have will benefit the Steelers as they attempt to fill the hole left by Tuitt’s absence for a second straight season, this time permanently.
"My mindset was always get healthy and enjoy that grind to be back." Tyson Alualu pic.twitter.com/Ch5AxIpyY4
— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) May 25, 2022
Speaking with reporters inside the Steelers’ locker room in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side Thursday, Alualu discussed the versatility of members of the Steelers’ defensive line, according to audio via 93.7 The Fan.
“I guess when you have guys that can move around, I think that’ll just help us overall as a unit when guys can play multiple positions and fill wherever is needed,” Alualu said to reporters, according to audio via 93.7 The Fan. “To be honest, majority of the time we’re in nickel defense, so it’s always the two tackles.
“It doesn’t matter if you play nose or end, you just gotta be ready to go out there,” Alualu added. “But I guess that’s a good problem to have when you can have multiple guys playing different positions and do it at a high level.”
Alualu is one of those guys with that positional versatility, though he prolonged his career with the Steelers by shifting inside to nose tackle in base defense and serving as a reserve behind Tuitt and Cameron Heyward in nickel defense, which kept his snap counts low and allowed him to stay on the field, for the most part.
Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, and Isaiahh Loudermilk on Stephon Tuitt's retirement: pic.twitter.com/fy8IUf5jkV
— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) June 2, 2022
Now though, there’s a possibility the Steelers ask Alualu to shift back outside to defensive end in base defense in an attempt to fill the hole left behind by Tuitt. Of course, there’s a greater chance the Steelers stick with what they did early on last season when fully healthy, keeping Alualu at nose and using Chris Wormley in Tuitt’s spot, which worked out well against the Buffalo Bills in Week 1 last season.
Versatility will be key though, as there’s no way the Steelers truly replace Tuitt in 2022. Guys like Alualu, Wormley, Montravious Adams, Isaiahh Loudermilk, and rookie DeMarvin Leal will have to be comfortable moving around and wearing a bunch of different hats in the Steelers’ front in an attempt to provide meaningful snaps for the black and gold in the trenches this fall.