The Pittsburgh Steelers signing of unrestricted free agent defensive lineman Tyson Alualu during the offseason might fly under the radar on the national level as the former first round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars never really lived up to his selection status during his first seven years in the league. Additionally, while Alualu might not be viewed as a sexy offseason free agent addition in the eyes of several fans of the Steelers, the team’s defensive line coach John Mitchell is very excited to have him in Pittsburgh now as he’s been a fan of him since he was in college.
“This man had a resume coming out of Cal and I liked him,” Mitchell said of Alualu during an interview a few days ago on Steelers Nation Radio. “At the particular time , we couldn’t get to him [in the draft], but when you have a veteran ballplayer like him, who’s played in this league, who came out with a great resume, he’s a big, big addition to us.
“I think he’s going to help us. He fits in very well with my players in the meeting room. Here’s a guy that’s been around, he knows how to study, he knows how to come to practice and I’ve been very, very excited about Tyson.”
With Alualu now in the fold, the hope is that his addition can finally help alleviate starting defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt from having to play nearly all the defensive snaps on a weekly basis and thus keep both players fresher for not only late in games, but late in the season as well. Mitchell spoke about the possibility of that finally happening this year now that Alualu has been added to the team.
“You’ve got Tyson now, I mean, I love him,” Mitchell started. “He can help both of them [Heyward and Tuitt] and the good thing about him, he can play either right or left end. And so, you want your better ballplayers – when you go into the fourth quarter and you guys know, most of the games in the National Football League, they’re won in the last five minutes of the game and when you’ve got healthy players and fresh players in the game, it gives you an edge.
“So, if we can play with Tuitt and Cam 50 plays and let Tyson get 25, L.T. [Walton] get 25, hey, we’ll be better. For a 16-game season and late in December and early January, you want your horses ready to go and if those guys are not beat up, they’re going to be a lot more productive.”
While Alualu is now 30 years of age and entering his eighth season in the NFL, it’s worth noting that he’s never missed a game during his professional career due to injury. Additionally, him now being set to play roughly 25 snaps a game or less in Pittsburgh, should keep him very fresh as well.
With the Steelers 2017 training camp now right at the halfway point, the reports from practice on Alualu have seemingly been very positive overall and it’s obvious that Mitchell believes he can ultimately be a huge contributor this season. If that happens, both Heyward and Tuitt should become more productive players by proxy.