Ever have a really bad day when you don’t think things could get any worse but you prove yourself wrong by, for example, locking your keys in your car? Sure, your pre-locked-out-of-your-car problems were bad, but what you wouldn’t give to go back in time even a few minutes.
As the Steelers began the free-agency phase of the offseason two weeks ago, it was safe to assume that they’d have their share of problems in the form of defections due to cap issues. However, it didn’t seem safe to assume that veteran defensive lineman Tyson Alualu would become one of those defections. But he quickly signed a two-year deal with the Jaguars—the team that originally drafted him—and, just like that, the Steelers had yet another vacancy to fill.
What many Steelers fans would have given to go back to the pre-Alualu-defection days when all they had to worry about was replacing Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, Matt Feiler, etc. Sure, the Steelers soon re-signed receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, which was a surprise, but they also released cornerback Mike Hilton, another, less pleasant, surprise.
Back to Alualu.
Obviously, there were in-house options for a lot of the Steelers defections, but what about the defensive line? It just didn’t feel like there were any—at least not any you could feel comfortable with.
What to do, other than pray that Alualu had a change of heart before he had a chance to sign his deal?
Wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what happened!
When word first surfaced on Saturday evening that Alualu, who had reportedly contracted COVID-19 shortly after he agreed to terms with Jacksonville and didn’t have a chance to put ink to paper, had a change of heart and was re-signing with Pittsburgh, to me, it was akin to looking under your car and spotting the keys you thought were still in the ignition.
Sure, the Steelers still have many things to sort out; they have a lot of needs and little room under the cap to address them with quality and quantity. They still have a month to go until the 2021 NFL Draft, and you can count at least five different positions that they could address with their first-round pick.
But I doubt the Steelers will be making the defensive line a priority, at least not with the 24th selection. The depth at the position isn’t what it once was when Alualu was backing up Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave in 2019, but at least the depth that took Hargrave’s place as a starter in 2020 and did better than few could have imagined will be back for 2021.
Shortly after the announcement of Alualu’s departure, I wrote an article stating that it was the first one that truly hurt. Steelers fans joined me in expressing sorrow, but I was also mocked by Jaguars fans on Twitter (who knew they had a plural amount)? These people were pretty darn smug about Alualu returning home and acted like their supposed favorite football team didn’t draft Blake Bortles and isn’t always trying to move to London.
I don’t know if Jacksonville will ever feel like home to the Jaguars, but Pittsburgh has apparently become that for Alualu, who ultimately couldn’t leave the gray skies and potholes behind.
I won’t gloat. I won’t go on Twitter and mock Jaguars fans (they’ll have enough to deal with when their team likely ruins Trevor Lawrence). But it does feel good that Tyson Alualu gave Steelers fans one less problem to worry about.