It’s time for Steelers to make a switch on their defensive line

Tyson Alualu #94 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Tyson Alualu #94 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers simply aren’t getting good enough play out of one of their interior defenders, and it’s time for the team to make a switch.

Entering Week 4 of the 2022 NFL season, Mitch Trubisky and Matt Canada have been the talk of the town so far — two players who are largely to blame for Pittsburgh’s completely stagnant offense early in the year. However, there are other positions and players who deserve some criticism for some very poor play in 2022.

We thought the Steelers defensive line would be a much-improved unit from the one we saw last season. Obviously, this is hard to accomplish when T.J. Watt is watching from the sidelines. But just like last year, their interior defensive line deserves some blame for how things have gone so far.

During the first three weeks of the season, the Steelers have surrendered 142.7 rushing yards per game to their opponents — good for 28th in the NFL, according to Team Rankings. Sadly, I believe the unspectacular play of DT Tyson Alualu has a lot to do with this.

After missing 15 games of the 2021 season while on IR with a severe ankle injury, many fans were hoping Alualu would be the key they needed to get their run defense back on track. If anything, he has been a detriment to the team so far. In fact, Alualu as earned a 40.9 overall grade, via Pro Football Focus — good for 106th among 112 qualifying interior defenders.

In addition to garnering virtually no pressure as an interior pass rusher, Alualu seems to have lost his nitch: his ability to stop the run. Early in the season, the big defensive lineman has been washed out of plays and no longer seems imposing at the point of attack.

This shouldn’t have completely cut us off guard. Alualu is a 35-year-old player coming off a season-ending injury. He looks like just a shade of his younger self, and chances are, he will never be the same. Sadly, the former 10th overall pick by the Jaguars way back in 2010 is on his last legs and clearly on the way out.

Steelers must activate Isaiahh Loudermilk

What irks me is that I could see the writing on the walls. Despite the run defense struggling and Tyson Alualu performing poorly, the Pittsburgh Steelers have yet to turn to Isaiahh Loudermilk. Though they spent a future fourth-round pick to move back into the 2021 draft and select him, Loudermilk has been a healthy scratch during the first three games and has watched from the sidelines.

This needs to change right away. Loudermilk is 6’6 3/8” and has done a lot of work to add bulk to his frame since coming into the league. He was drafted to be a big 5-technique who could two-gap and help Pittsburgh’s porous run defense. Sadly, he’s hardly seen the field in that role yet (not at all in 2022).

With the way things have gone so far, I would have to believe that Mike Tomlin would be open to getting Isaiahh Loudermilk involved in the defensive line rotation on defense. I think he should be playing often in base packages, while players like Larry Ogunjobi and DeMarvin Leal should be preserved primarily for passing downs where they can utilize their skill sets to tee off on the quarterback.

light. Trending. Steelers fans should rejoice about NFL Pro Bowl being replaced

Activating Loudermilk would mean that the Steelers must pick a different player to be inactive each week, but I think fans are ready for that change at this point. The defensive line has been just so-so and Tyson Alualu has been the weakest link. Perhaps Isaiahh Loudermilk is ready to help make a difference.