Of the losses incurred by the Pittsburgh Steelers defense this past season, arguably their biggest was the loss of defensive lineman Tyson Alualu, who sustained a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2 against the Las Vegas Raiders.
It was no coincidence that following his absence, the Steelers' run defense suffered mightily; so much so, they allowed a league-worst 143.8 rushing yards per game. In 2020, the Steelers defense fared much better, as they finished 13th overall in rushing yards allowed. Alualu himself was one of the top interior defensive linemen, as he received recognition from Pro Football Focus for his level of play that season.
With much uncertainty surrounding the future of Stephon Tuitt, Alualu's return gives All-Pro defensive lineman Cameron Heyward a reliable teammate to help fortify their run defense. Even with their issues stopping the run, this past season saw the emergence of Chris Wormley, and the contributions of both Montravius Adams and rookie Isaiahh Loudermilk helped elevate the defense down the stretch. Alualu's presence, however, should allow for more alignment flexibility in different sub-packages, resulting in increased production.
The Steelers could very well look into this year's NFL Draft to add a defensive lineman, but Alualu's presence could be essential in helping elevate the defense back into a contender-worthy unit.