Player: Tyson Alualu
Position: Defensive Tackle
Experience: 13 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2022 Salary Cap Hit: $3,462,500
2022 Season Breakdown:
Hindsight being 20/20, the Steelers’ 2021 contract for defensive lineman Tyson Alualu wasn’t their best. But you can’t predict the future, and everyone was seemingly on the same page about it being the right decision at the time.
Nobody knew he would break his ankle in the second game of that contract, miss the rest of that season, and then never be the same player again. But that was the unfortunate case this past season. Alualu opted to return in 2022 at age 35 because he didn’t want to retire going down on an injury.
Instead, he saw himself demoted early in the season and was unable to play up to his usual level. The fact that he also had knee issues during the offseason in addition to recovering from a broken ankle probably didn’t help matters.
He still played nearly 300 snaps this past season and didn’t miss a game, but he registered just 13 tackles with none for loss, splitting a sack with two quarterback hits and one pass defensed. It’s not the sort of impact he had grown accustomed to making. Indeed, more plays were made against him as he found himself disproportionately on the ground.
Free Agency Outlook:
It has been widely speculated that Alualu is likely to retire after the 2022 season following a 13-year NFL career, six of which came with the Steeler since he signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2017. It was a productive tenure here overall in spite of the misfortunes of the past two years. The 2020 season arguably marked a career-high in his full-time transition to nose tackle.
At this point, I don’t think the Steelers could justify anything more than a non-guaranteed veteran minimum contract if Alualu were interested in trying to continue to play. Does he believe that he wasn’t fully healthy last season and that he could return closer to form in 2023?
I don’t know, but by now he would have to be seriously contemplating retirement even if he were fully healthy and playing up to a higher standard of performance. He’s earned many millions of dollars over the course of his career.
Either way, his time in Pittsburgh should be remembered fondly, whether he ultimately settles down in the area long-term or not. He was a good player and a great individual in the community and representative for the franchise and should continue to be so on or off the field.