The Pittsburgh Steelers wanted to bring in a player of the caliber of somebody like Tyson Alualu this offseason for precisely the sort of scenario that they have been dealing with for most of the season, with a starter down along the line. Of course, they also want to be able to rotate more. But they saw what the defense looked like last year without Cameron Heyward.
And so they brought in Alualu, and he has been a starter for most of the season so far. He might even continue to start on Sunday, if Tuitt doesn’t return to practice from his back injury. With the bye week coming up, they may be more inclined toward caution.
The former Jaguars first-rounder hasn’t exactly blown things up in the passing game, but he has done well overall, and has held up against the run. the Steelers opened the game in their 3-4 with Alualu in Tuitt’s spot, and he was able to shake the tackle to make the stop.
A bit later on the same drive, the defense as a whole really played the run well, filling the gaps and closing lanes as they opened, but it ended up being Alualu coming off his block that produced the tackle after a one-yard gain.
Into the second quarter as the Bengals were driving, Pittsburgh was in the nickel defense at the 10. Cincinnati double-teamed him, but he held his own. The running back ran into his own linemen, knocking one off the block, which freed him and helped chase the runner into Heyward for a stop.
At the start of the third quarter, he did a good job of penetrating, but Bud Dupree got washed out, and took him out as well. The rest of the defense, however, was in position to make the play for another run stop for just a yard.
On the next play, third and nine, he had a pass-rushing situation on his hands. With Dupree running up the arc, he erred in attempting to spin back to the inside, which opened up an escape lane for Andy Dalton to scramble, nearing picking up the first down.
He did finally get his first sack of the season, though Dupree is owed an assist. Still, Alualu did cleanly beat the right tackle and was there for the cleanup.
He has proven to be very good as a backup, and serviceable as a starter, which is exactly what the Steelers were looking for at that price tag. And so far they have had to get the most out of their investment.