Steelers Free Agency Update: Has the Team Gotten Better Yet?

IMG_1723.JPGAfter doing essentially nothing in free agency this spring other than signing a few of their own, the Steelers have suddenly exploded into a frenzy of activity, relatively speaking, signing not one but three guys within the past few days. Let’s take a quick look at them, with the latest coming first.

I haven’t yet covered defensive ends in my “Pittsburgh’s Goin’ to the Super Bowl” series, but it was coming soon, and the guy they signed at defensive end is perhaps the most intriguing of the three free agents they have signed this week. The Tribune-Review article about Tyson Alualu began this way:

It wasn’t lost on Tyson Alualu that the best of his seven seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars matched the worst for the Steelers under coach Mike Tomlin.

Or that the Jaguars won as many games the past three seasons as the Steelers did in 2016.

If that doesn’t give Steeler Nation a little bit of perspective, nothing will. He was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 10th pick overall in the 2010 draft. He was not projected to go nearly that high—most analysts were projecting him as a low 1st round or high 2nd round pick. He was drafted as a defensive tackle, and made the All-Rookie team at the end of the year. He did not live up to the promise of that year, though, and in 2013 the Jaguars moved him to defensive end. He has been durable, but a disappointment, as his production hasn’t matched his draft placement.

This reminds me a bit of Darrius  Heyward-Bey, who was also rather over-drafted. This is rather hard on the player, who can’t be better than they are, and although the team receives the blame for drafting them, nonetheless it seems to also fall on the player who is considered a disappointment or a bust. It’s one thing if they aren’t trying, and quite another if they just aren’t quite talented enough, or developed enough, or just a late bloomer.

We don’t really know at this point where Alualu fits into that progression, but it isn’t terribly important at the moment, as “durable depth” is what he was signed as, I assume. The defensive line as currently constituted is pretty amazing. It will be nice to think Alualu is a more-than-capable backup for any of the three positions, whether to just give somebody a breather or to take over in the case of an injury.

He’s certainly durable, at any rate. He has never missed a game because of injury. He was a healthy scratch for the first two games of the 2016 season but played in the next 14 games. He ended the season with 36 tackles, 2.5 sacks and six tackles for loss.

Apparently he had a number of other interviews lined up but signed immediately with the Steelers, his first interview. As he said, he just wanted to be a part of something special. From his lips to God’s ears, as Homer J might say…

I’m liking the free agent signings. Although none of the guys are world-beaters, they will give the Steelers a bit more flexibility in the coming draft.

I will cover the other free agent signings in the days to come. (I haven’t forgotten about the wide receiver, either.) I’m in the middle of a bathroom remodel—actually, from the plumbing up—at my youngest son’s house, so I have to sneak in posts when I can…

2 comments

  • Seems like a typical Steeler free agent signing. And that’s all good.

    They don’t often go after the marquee guys with the big money. There’s a limited amount you can spend, and it’s better to spread it around to keep your players happy and keep them here – especially spending enough on the middle of the roster and the bottom half. The comparison to DHB is absolutely spot on.

    The Steelers love to go after guys like Farrior, Ryan Clark, Cotch, and DHB: high character guys whose work ethic stands out. Not only are these guys typically underrated at their previous place of employment, they exceed fans’ expectations from the moment they get to Latrobe. Alualu seems to fit that mold.

    Are the Steelers better today than they were at the start of free agency? No. Not yet. Of course they’re not done with FA yet, either.

    Will they be after the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting? Most likely.

    Like

  • He has better rush than LT Walton and should replace Matthews nicely. Our top 6 DL is a pretty good set, especially considering that we run 2 DL a lot. that means hopefully that Alualu is going to get snaps with Hargrave and Walton to keep Heyward and Tuitt fresher as the game and season go on.

    If those guys up front are fresh and Bud is flying to the ball our front 7 should be formidable.

    Like

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