Ex-Cal Star Tyson Alualu Changes Mind, Will Re-Sign With Steelers

Nose tackle altered his decision when he had COVID-19, delaying his trip to sign with Jacksonville
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It was reported more than a week ago that former Cal defensive lineman Tyson Alualu had agreed to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency, but on Sunday ESPN reported that Alualu had changed his mind while recovering from COVID-19 and is re-signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers on a two-year deal.

The 33-year Alualu had the best season of his NFL career in 2020 as a nose tackle for the Steelers, and many members of the media encouraged the Steelers to re-sign him when he became a free agent following the 2020 season.

In mid-March, Alualu agreed to a two-year, $6 million deal with Jacksonville, where Tyson played his first seven NFL seasons after the Jaguars picked him the first round of the 2010 NFL draft.

Alualu was scheduled to fly to Jacksonville to sign the new contract, but his trip was delayed when he tested positive for COVID-19. According to the ESPN report, Alualu changed his mind during his 10 days of quarantine and decided to stay in Pittsburgh.

Apparently, members of the Steelers' defensive line, including Cam Heyward, persuaded Alualu to stay, telling him how much he meant to the success of the team.

Alualu ultimately accepted the Steelers' original offer, which was a little less than the Jaguars' offer. The fact that Alualu had built his dream home in Pittsburgh and his kids were enrolled in school probably had an effect on his decision too.

Teammates Heyward and T.J. Watt demonstrated their delight on Twitter:

Alualu has been with the Steelers since 2017, when he signed a two-year, $6 million deal in free agency.

Alualu's defensive line coach with the Jaguars would have been Tosh Lupoi, who was Alualu's defensive line coach in his final two years at Cal. Lupoi was a defensive lineman at Cal from 2000 through 2005, and his first coaching job was as defensive line coach at Cal from 2008 through 2011. 

Alualu's final two seasons at Cal were 2008 and 2009 and he recorded 22.5 tackles for loss in those two seasons combined.

He was a starter in six of his first seven seasons with Jacksonville as a defensive end. He signed with the Steelers in 2017, and two years ago he was switched inside to the nose tackle position.

The position change suited Alualu, who, at the age of 32, had by far the best season of his career in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics. That site gave Alualu an 80.1 rating and called his marked improvement the biggest surprise in the NFL among defensive linemen.

Alualu was even better in 2020 at age 33, according to PFF, which awarded him a grade of 90.2, the third best of all NFL interior linemen, behind only Aaron Donald and teammate Heyward.

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Cover photo of Tyson Alualu by Chales LeClaire, USA TODAY Sports

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