Steelers sign defensive end Tyson Alualu
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.
So, when the veteran defensive lineman had a chance to sign a two-year contract with the Steelers on Tuesday, he didn't pass on the opportunity.
The first visit for Alualu in his first foray into free agency turned out to be his last.
“I had a few (visits) lined up,” Alualu said. “I don't think I could have left without signing a deal here. I just wanted to be part of something special.”
When he was drafted 10th overall out of California by the Jaguars in 2010, Alualu was viewed as an important piece of the Jaguars' rebuilding. The Jaguars went 8-8 in his rookie year, but 22-74 over the next six seasons, never winning more than five games in a season. He played for five head coaches.
“This is a little different,” said Alualu, who will turn 30 in May.
With the Jaguars, Alualu was a dependable player, starting 88 of 110 games and never missing a game because of injury. He never developed into a star befitting his high draft status, but had 17 1⁄2 career sacks, including 2 1⁄2 last season.
With the Steelers, Alualu will provide depth at all three line positions. Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt are entrenched as the starters at end, with Javon Hargrave at nose tackle. Last year's top backup, Ricardo Mathews, is a free agent and remains unsigned.
Former sixth-round draft picks Daniel McCullers and L.T. Walton, plus undrafted free agent Johnny Maxey, remain on the roster.
“I don't think it will be difficult,” Alualu said of the transition from starter to backup. “I'll come in, try to compete and do all I can to help this team get better, to help the D-line around me play better. And I think they'll do the same for me.
“You just come in and work your butt off and see how things play out. This is a great group to be able to come in and compete with. We're out there to try to get people better.”
Alualu's experience is on the outside, but he said he can play nose tackle.
“I've played all around the line — three tech, end,” he said. “However they want to use me, I'm ready for it.”
Alualu also is ready to win, something he didn't do often in the first seven seasons of his NFL career.
“I had some tough years in Jacksonville,” Alualu said. “I just wanted something to change — a good change — and I'm excited to be here.”