Steelers most overlooked position to fill for the 2021 season
The Steelers have multiple key free agents they won’t be able to bring back in 2021 and will have to make a lot of hard decisions heading into the next season.
If I were to tell you that the Steelers losses of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, James Conner, and the newly retired Maurkice Pouncey aren’t our biggest losses entering 2021 you would only be able to ask “who is?”. The answer is Tyson Alualu.
Tyson Alualu sadly finished the season as only the 11th highest graded run defender among defensive linemen per PFF after returning from injury at the end of the season. Yet, before injuring his knee, he was not only the highest graded run defender among defensive linemen but the highest-graded run defender in the NFL. More importantly, his overall grade was so high that he was actually in a back in forth with 2020 defensive player of the year Aaron Donald for the highest-graded defensive lineman in the NFL for much of the year.
Before his injury, he was by far the best run defender on the Steelers’ defense.
He dominated in the trenches throughout most of the year and was the key cog in stopping most inside run schemes throughout the season. Even after he shook off his injury designation and got a normal snap-count back it was obvious that the injury was lingering. He wasn’t getting the kind of push on the interior that he use to and as a result, we saw Cam Heyward being used more during run situations.
I’m not saying Alualu can’t get back to where he was prior to Week 9 of the 2020 season, but he is set to be 34 soon. On top of him being a 34-year-old who just had to battle through a sprained MCL for much of the remainder of the season, he is a free agent. The Steelers may choose to resign him, but Alualu likely earned himself a payday from a team that is on the fringe of title contention that Pittsburgh won’t be able to match in free agency.