For all the crazy stories which take place during an NFL season, there are some which top others. This past offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a particular crazy story. This story was the one surrounding defensive lineman Tyson Alualu.
As an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) Alualu hit the open market, and it looked as if he was set to sign a contract with the team who drafted him, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Then something happened.
Sure, we heard a round about story of how Alualu ended up not signing with Jacksonville, and instead coming back to the Steelers. But we hadn’t heard much from Alualu about what went down. Thursday, on the last day of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) for the week, Alualu sat down with reporters and told what actually went down this offseason.
“It was stressful during that time because me and my family knew we wanted to stay here in Pittsburgh, but we weren’t reaching an agreement,” said Alualu. “Then I got COVID, and that gave me more time to think about wanting to stay in Pittsburgh. I talked to some of my teammates here and decided to switch over. It was nothing that Jacksonville did to change my mind. I am thankful and grateful that Jacksonville was a team that came after me heavy, but at the end of the day I’m just happy and grateful to be with the Pittsburgh Steelers and to try to chase a championship here.”
There were reports of Alualu’s family, and him having a home in Florida, as a reason for the move, but Alualu explains it wasn’t just his home situation which made him stay.
“I did have a place in Jacksonville, but I just sold my home there late last year. Maybe that played a factor in it – having to start all over after I had left,” said Alualu. “But my teammates here made me feel wanted, (told me) that they wanted me back and needed me back. There were a lot of emotions that played into it.”
Then there is the aspect of the story with Alualu’s positive COVID-19 test delaying his trip to Florida to sign on the dotted line.
“I was supposed to fly out to Jacksonville the next day (and sign the contract), and then when I got tested I found out I had COVID. I didn’t even know I had it,” said Alualu. “But since I tested positive, I wasn’t able to fly out to sign the contract. Throughout the whole process, even before I agreed to terms, my teammates and even Coach Dunbar were calling and checking on me, wanting to me to stay. My wife and I had a lot of conversations about what choice we wanted to make. Even after we agreed to terms in Jacksonville, after we talked about it and prayed about it, we felt (staying in Pittsburgh) was the best decision for our family.”
To this day, this might be one of the wildest stories in an NFL offseason. There have been players who have failed physicals and not gone to a new team. There have been players who just decided to retire before playing somewhere else. But to have a player agree to terms on a contract, have a flight to go sign said contract, contract COVID-19 and during his quarantine decide to stay in Pittsburgh.
A downer for Jacksonville, but the return of Alualu has been met with open arms by the Steelers fan base. After losing Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton and Matt Feiler in free agency, the thought of losing Alualu, who most expected to return, was a gut punch. Not anymore, Alualu returns and keeps the Steeler’s defensive front in tact, and nasty.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.