This summer Mike Tomlin held a virtual press conference for local media in what should have been the end of Organized Team Activities (OTAs). During that press conference Tomlin shocked the Pittsburgh Steelers fan base when he announced the team was planning on moving Matt Feiler to guard, and Tyson Alualu to get the first crack at replacing Javon Hargrave at nose tackle.
A lot has happened since that Zoom meeting, and Alualu, who met with media on Sunday, isn’t worried about any transition in position in the Steelers’ defense. In fact, he doesn’t even consider a switch to nose tackle as a big change for him.
“I don’t think I did too much different preparing to play nose tackle because in our defense, especially when we are in nickel, we play a lot over the center,” said Alualu. “A lot of those repetitive things playing from whether we are in the tilt over the center, on the center or two-eye over the guard. I think it is more of a mental thing playing inside, especially in our “okie” defense. It is a lot (quicker) getting your hands on the center. It is more of a mentality.
“The further and further you move away from the ball, whether you are playing defensive tackle or defensive end, you get more space. But when you are playing nose tackle, you get a lot more action a lot faster. I guess getting your hands a lot quicker, and just working on that throughout the offseason. I’ve seen Javon work throughout the years that I have been here. I think I got first-hand what it looks like to be a great nose tackle. Seeing him work and seeing how he operates on a daily basis from practice and letting it translate to the games, I think being able to see how he plays was definitely a positive for me moving forward.”
Alualu, who is not new to the Steelers’ defense, knows you have to be ready. After all, it was Alualu who has stepped in for Stephon Tuitt, Cam Heyward and even Hargrave whenever they had to miss games due to injury, so he knows what is being asked of him every single year.
“Whenever your number is called, you have to be ready,” said Alualu. “It is no different. Whenever you have your opportunity, coaches preach it a lot, the standard is the standard. No matter what ways or how you got here, whatever is expected of the starter to do or whoever is before you, the expectation is always high. You have to play at that level to keep that job. Filling in for Javon, he played very well here, and I look forward to doing the same. Whether it is me out there or just trying to teach the young guys the standard of what is expected to play nose tackle or defensive end.
“Being a vet in this league, it is just always about knowing your job and doing your job and earning the respect of your teammates and coaches. Enough that they trust you enough to put you out there, you have to make the most of it.”
Alualu seems ready, but have the Steelers done enough to bolster the depth behind Alualu? Players like Isaiah Buggs, Daniel McCullers and Chris Wormley will be called to step up in a big way to ensure the team’s defensive line depth is there from top to bottom. They have withstood injuries before, and the hope is this isn’t a necessary move in 2020.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they roll through training camp and prepare for the regular season.