For veteran defensive lineman Tyson Alualu, his NFL career has had its fair share of peaks and valleys.
The once first-round pick out of the University of California has been often scrutinized for not living up to the expectations that accompanies a first-round status. After a promising rookie season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, that included signing a hefty contract, Alualu saw his production dwindle after his first three seasons. By 2014, he was relegated to the role of backup defensive lineman. Despite showing some flashes of the player he was at Cal, Alualu never quite became the impact player many had expected him to be.
Since joining the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017, Alualu has played the reserve defensive lineman role as well as any player in the NFL. In his first season with the Steelers, Alualu set a career high in sacks, and tied his personal best in tackles for loss. Considering that he achieved this in only five starts, was indicative of his ability to produce when given the opportunity.
This past season has seen many notable roster players leave on both sides of the ball. With the departure of talented defensive lineman Javon Hargrave to the Philadelphia Eagles, a big void has been left needing to be filled.
One of the players mentioned by Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin to fill that void was Alualu. Though nothing has been promised, Tomlin made it clear that Alualu would be first in line to get the chance to start a nose tackle once training camp begins.
"Tyson (Alualu) is a veteran football player that's been here, that knows how to play the game,"he said in his interview with Sports Illustrated. "He and Dan (McCullers) are probably going to start, but he'll probably take the first snap based on the things that I've talked about, relative to current circumstances and then we'll go from there."
Though nothing is written in stone, Alualu has the chance this training camp to redefine himself in a starting role, and ensure that the story of his career has a happy ending.