Tyson Alualu
(Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Prior to week 8, the Pittsburgh Steelers had the best-run defense in the NFL. However, against the Ravens and the Cowboys, the defense struggled against the run. It is not a coincidence that defensive tackle Tyson Alualu was inactive during both of these poor performances. Despite being only average in previous years, the 33-year-old veteran has finally broken out and is the heart and soul of this Steelers’ run defense.

On Paper Tyson Alualu is not amazing. So far, he has only recorded 16 tackles and 1 sack this season. Although his stats are not stellar the veteran player is making contributions where it matters. Alualu has pushed past blocks and closed gaps from running backs all season. Because of this, he has not recorded many tackles, however, the linebackers behind him, Vince Williams and formerly Devin Bush, could stop runs at the line of scrimmage without contest.

Against the Baltimore Ravens and the Dallas Cowboys, the Steelers defense allowed a combined total of 409 rushing yards. In their previous six games, they only allowed a grand total of 408 rushing yards. One yard less in four more games. Six games that included Kareem Hunt, Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry, and Melvin Gordon. The one variable that differentiates these games is the presence of nose tackle Tyson Alualu.

This is not a bash on the Steelers’ defense. With or without Alualu they are still one of the best defenses in the NFL. However, throughout the season big names such as T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward have been getting all of the credit. But you can see that without Alualu even they can struggle. Tyson Alualu has not been great in the past, but this year he is the heart of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ run defense.