For Tyson Alualu, the 2021 season was a struggle.
Alualu, who had signed a two-year contract in the 2021 offseason to stay with the Steelers, suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2 against the Las Vegas Raiders, bringing his season to a disappointing ending when he was placed on the Reserve/Injured List.
But now, he is back for his 13th season, taking part in the team's OTAs and he couldn't be happier.
"It felt great," said Alualu after Day 1 of OTAs. "Just to be around the guys and be able to compete. Whether it's vets or young guys, they can always learn and watch. When you are away from the game for so long it shows you how much you missed it. More than anything, it's the camaraderie of being around the guys. I missed that and it felt great to be around them."
Alualu said one of the most important things for him last season was staying around the team, rehabbing and working out at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on a regular basis.
"It's definitely a tough injury," said Alualu. "Definitely a tough rehab getting an injury like that. I think just being around the guys, both physically and mentally, was very helpful in that process.
"I just enjoy those hard days and those tough times. Those build character trying to get back and play on Sunday. My mindset was always get healthy and enjoy that grind."
Making his return to the field during OTAs is something that can benefit Alualu, as it's a non-contact time that allows him to ease his way into things.
"The way OTAs are now compared to how it used to be where we were pretty much playing football back in the days," said Alualu. "It's different now and it helps get back to playing football. Whether you are coming back off a normal offseason or coming back off an injury, I think this is a great way to knock off some of those kinks and get back to playing football and football shape."
While Alualu is working during OTAs, both he and Cameron Heyward confirmed that fellow defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt wasn't at Day 1 of voluntary OTAs after missing the entire 2021 season on the Reserve/Injured List.
"As a vet you have to do what is best for you so when it does matter, on game day, whatever you have to do to get to your best, we're all for it," said Alualu. "It's not about being here at practice or OTAs. Of course, we want him here. But whatever you can do to get prepared for the season, that's all that matters."