PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) – Steelers defensive lineman Tyson Alualu chose to come to Pittsburgh via free agency for a moment like this Sunday.
It is a moment the former first round pick never had in seven seasons in Jacksonville. Oddly enough, when Alualu steps onto the frigid Heinz Field turf for Sunday’s AFC divisional round game, he’ll be lining up against those he called teammates mere months ago.
“They got the better of us earlier in the season,” Alualu said of the Jaguars 30-9 victory over Pittsburgh in October. “Just excited about this opportunity. I don’t think I’d want to play any other opponent. I just can’t wait until Sunday.”
Throughout the week, the versatile 30-year-old filled in for fellow linemen Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave, both of whom missed time with injury.
“I think it’s been the same all year, just giving them some time to rest and heal up so that they can come out 100 percent on Sunday,” Alualu added. “I don’t think it changes anything from the game plan standpoint.”
Alualu’s optimism was reinforced as Tuitt, who is nursing an elbow injury, and Hargrave, dealing with a back problem, were both able to take the practice field Friday.
“No doubt,” Tuitt said when asked if he will play. “Everybody knows the pressure and everybody knows that it’s a must win to go on to the next stage. I’m glad that everyone was able to go out there and practice.”
Hargrave downplayed the back issue that kept him out of Thursday’s practice and confirmed that he will be able to play.
The defense’s secondary is not free of injury concerns either, as corner Artie Burns left practice Wednesday after a non-contact knee injury later diagnosed as a hyperextension.
“I’m feeling good,” Burns said Friday. “I did all my reps today in practice. Just keep getting therapy and I should be 100 percent on Sunday. All my movement was good.”
Pittsburgh will also welcome the return of Antonio Brown Sunday, as the unanimous All-Pro selection missed the final two games of the regular season with a calf injury.
Brown did miss Friday’s practice with an illness, but Mike Tomlin said it should not impact his availability for the game.