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