It was just prior to the official start of unrestricted free agency when veteran defensive lineman Tyson Alualu made the decision to “return to where it all started” and agreed to sign a two-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. This despite the fact that the organization had reportedly made it a priority to try to retain him (along with cornerback Cameron Sutton and several others).
As it turns out, Alualu is staying with the Steelers after all.
According to a new report by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network/NFL.com, Alualu has agreed to a two-year deal with the Steelers. Apparently Alualu tested positive for COVID-19, which delayed his trip to Jacksonville, so he never signed his new contract with the Jaguars. Given time to re-think the decision he changed his mind and decided to remain in Pittsburgh.
Crazy backstory: Tyson Alualu was going to sign with the #Jaguars, but couldn’t make the trip after testing positive for COVID, per sources. He’d built his dream home in Pittsburgh, has kids in school, and with 10 days to think, he decided to stay. https://t.co/oeVQv9W2ie
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 27, 2021
Tyson Alualu’s decision to return to Pittsburgh means that the team’s defensive line depth suddenly looks a whole lot stronger, though one wonders if the Steelers would have rushed to sign fellow D-lineman Chris Wormley to a two-year extension had the team known it was keeping Alualu.
No financial terms for the new Alualu agreement have yet been disclosed, but it should be interesting to see if the Steelers matched the $6 million that the Jaguars were reportedly going to pay him. Or if he was willing to come back for less money.
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Tyson Alualu is a Former Top Ten Pick of the Jaguars
Alualu, 33, entered the NFL with the Jaguars in 2010 after Jacksonville selected him No. 10 overall in that year’s draft.
Over the course of his first seven seasons in the league, he started 87 of 110 games and recorded 258 tackles, adding 17.5 sacks, 30 tackles for loss and 51 quarterback hits.
Since coming to Pittsburgh in 2017 he has been a spot starter (22 of 62 games) and has served as a significant component of the team’s defensive line rotation, responsible for 140 tackles (75 solo), seven sacks, 16 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits, plus eight passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
Pittsburgh’s Defensive Line Rotation in 2021
With Alualu and Wormley still in the fold the Steelers won’t necessarily need young defensive linemen like Henry Mondeaux, Isaiah Buggs and Carlos Davis to develop into more impactful players (though it would be a nice-to-have). Never mind developmental prospects like Calvin Taylor and Demarcus Christmas, the latter of whom is a former 2019 sixth-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks. Both Taylor and Christmas are signed to one-year Reserve/Future contracts.
The return of Alualu also makes it relatively unlikely that the Steelers will address the defensive line in the forthcoming draft, not with many other positions—like outside linebacker, offensive line and running back—where there is currently much greater need. And not with so much money already invested in starting defensive ends Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward, who have the third and seventh-largest salary cap hits on the team in 2021 at $14,940,750 and $7,481,250, respectively.*
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