Player Spotlight – Tyson Alualu

By Justin McGonigle

The Steelers let Ricardo Mathews move on after one season, and replaced him with former Jaguar Tyson Alualu.

Alualu, 29, was the 10th overall draft pick in 2010 out of California, but never lived up to the top ten status. At Cal he played in all 52 games and started 39 consecutive games to close out his colligate career. He put together an impressive combine workout with a solid senior bowl that sprung him up the draft boards. Alualu has been a solid starter for the Jags, but he didn’t turn into the superior pass rusher that the Jags envisioned when selecting him.

Jacksonville signed Red Bryant from Seattle in 2014 to replace Alualu as a starter but he was released after only one season. Jared Odrick signed in 2015 but only kept Alualu out of the starting lineup for three games. Odrick moved to the other side while Alualu resumed playing the “big” end spot in Gus Bradley’s defense.

Depth became a problem for the Steelers Defensive front starting in 2015. They simply didn’t have anyone good enough to spell Tuitt and Heyward. Both were playing over 93% of the snaps which caused them to hit a wall towards the end of the season. Last season they added Mathews from San Diego to help take the pressure off, but that soon became a moot point when Heyward was lost for the season.

“I don’t want to play them (Heyward and Tuitt) 65 to 70 snaps per game. If you play them that many snaps, something bad is going to happen,” defensive line coach John Mitchell told “You can’t ask your two best players to pay 70 snaps every ball game. Their body is going to wear out,” Mitchell said.

Second year player LT Walton and rookie Johnny Maxey stepped in down the stretch as Tuitt missed two games with a sprained knee, and Mathews struggled with a high ankle sprain. While those two proved that they were deserving of roster spots, it also showed that you can never have too much depth. Maxey had been on the practice squad the entire season and was otherwise an unknown when he was inserted into the lineup.

Alualu has only missed two games in his career due to injury and that will be highly valued in Pittsburgh. His versatility shouldn’t be under looked either. He played in mostly a 4-3 defense in Jacksonville, but should transition well to end in the Steelers 3-4. He can also move to the middle and replace Javon Hargrave because of his six-foot three 304 pound frame. Kevin Colbert always covets players that can play multiple positions.

While Alualu’s two year six million dollar contract should assure him a spot on the roster he will have to show his worth against Maxey and Walton who could be fighting for the last spot on the defensive line. If he can prove to be solid at the nose tackle position he could bump off underwhelming incumbent Daniel McCullers. That could leave the door open for Maxey and Walton make the roster.

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