The Pittsburgh Steelers were without Stephon Tuitt in 2021, and while this may have garnered most of the headlines, the loss of Tyson Alualu was likely more impactful. The reasoning behind this is vast, but boils down to the simple fact the team never had Tuitt last preseason/training camp. All he did was work individually on the side and was placed on Injured Reserve (IR).
However, the team was banking on Alualu to be the fill-in for Tuitt, and the rock across from Cam Heyward who could help the run defense not turn into a sieve. When Alualu was lost in the home opener vs. the Las Vegas Raiders, the run defense was never the same. Players like Isaiah Buggs, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk and even Henry Mondeaux were called into action, but none filled the void left where Alualu stood at the start of the season.
After rehabilitating his injured ankle, Alualu is back on the field and can’t be more excited about it. Even Organized Team Activities (OTAs)...
“It felt great,” Alualu said after OTAs. “Just to be around the guys and be able to compete. Whether it’s vets or young guys, they can always learn and watch. When you are away from the game for so long it shows you how much you missed it. More than anything, it’s the camaraderie of being around the guys. I missed that and it felt great to be around them.”
There were some who felt Alualu might be able to return to the lineup, considering his injury occurred so early in the season, but the injured ankle took much longer to heal. A return in 2021 wasn’t possible.
“It’s definitely a tough injury,” said Alualu. “Definitely a tough rehab getting an injury like that. I think just being around the guys, both physically and mentally, was very helpful in that process.
“I just enjoy those hard days and those tough times. Those build character trying to get back and play on Sunday. My mindset was always get healthy and enjoy that grind.”
Enjoying the grind is something many don’t either enjoy or value, but Alualu found himself longing for the hard work which happens in every facet of the game. The weight room, the practice field, the meeting rooms and of course on game day. As stated earlier, Alualu even has shown an enjoyment and appreciation for OTAs.
“The way OTAs are now compared to how it used to be where we were pretty much playing football back in the days,” said Alualu. “It’s different now and it helps get back to playing football. Whether you are coming back off a normal offseason or coming back off an injury, I think this is a great way to knock off some of those kinks and get back to playing football and football shape.”
The Steelers 32nd ranked run defense is no secret, and has been a growing concern among the fan base for months now. The team didn’t do much to help this area of the team both in free agency or in the 2022 NFL Draft. Yes, they drafted DeMarvin Leal in the 3rd Round of the draft out of Texas A&M, but outside of that acquisition the team is banking on Alualu to return to form.
On top of Alualu’s return, a big step forward for players like Wormley and Loudermilk, especially after gaining so much experience in 2021, will be a welcome addition to the team’s sluggish run defense this season.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they get through the dog days of summer and prepare to report to training camp at Saint Vincent College on July 26th.