Chris Hoke may have retired this offseason, but he stays active in the media and he joined 93.7 The Fan Thursday morning for an interview. Hoke, who backed up Casey Hampton at nose tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers for over a decade, was asked about fourth round draft pick Alameda Ta\’amu. Hoke said, “I tell you what, he\’s going to be a good football player, I don\’t know if hell be ready to go right away playing the nose tackle, maybe doing some situational things next season, but this guy is going to be a good football player for a lot of years here.”
Hoke was asked next how long it takes for the light to come on for a young nose tackle and get comfortable with the Steelers scheme at the position. Hoke said in a lengthy reply, “Well I think it depends on who you are and what kind of scheme you learned in college, but I say it would take a year or two. I mean when you look at Hamp, Hamp came in I remember our rookie year and he started after his first seven games. I mean Hamp is a freak of nature though and this guy is as gifted of a talent that I\’ve ever been around, especially when he was young. You know you look at a guy coming in here and you\’ve got Coach Mitch, who I believe is the best 3-4 defensive line coach in the NFL, who really breaks you down. He doesn\’t care what you did when you were in college. He doesn\’t care what techniques you were taught and he\’ll tell you that. He goes; I don\’t care what you learned when you were at Washington and I don\’t care what you learned when you were at Texas. He goes; you\’re going to play the Steeler way. Then he\’ll break you down. He\’ll take away all the things you learned in college and teach you how to play nose tackle, or defensive end, how the Steelers want you to play with great technique, with great hands, with great leverage. You know staying square and all those kind of things that he teaches and he professes. And that\’s the way we\’ve been successful over the years. So i see Ta\’amu learning, growing. He looked the part, you know I know he\’s got to get in shape. You know a lot of rookies when they come in, their first mini-camp, their first OTA\’s, they didn\’t train for football. They trained to run the 40 and run these shuttle drills and now they\’ve got to get back into football shape and they\’ll do that. But I know once he get in shape, and the rest of these rookies in shape, its going to be a good class.”
Pretty awesome reply to a great question if you ask me and it pretty much goes along with what I have been writing since the Steelers drafted Ta\’amu. The general thinking with most is that the nose tackle position is just about eating up space and handling double teams, and that they do not have to understand much outside of that. Not only will defensive line coach John Mitchell break down Ta\’amu and rebuild him to play the position the Steeler way as Hoke says, but he will also be taught the other nuances of the defensive scheme as well.
It is easy to point back to the rookie season of Hampton and conclude that because he started half way through his rookie season that Ta\’amu should be able to as well. Hoke made sure to point out that Hampton was a freak of nature and keep in mind that he was a first round pick as well. Ta\’amu is not as technically sound as Hampton was his rookie season and he was drafted in the fourth round because of that. Now it is not out of the question that the rookie out of Washington could progress as fast as Hampton did, but I would not lay down any money on it happening. Mitchell will not play him until he is ready unless injuries force his hand to do so. I would be prepared for Ta\’amu to see the field less than 100 plays this season, and if it is more than that, it is because he is a freak of nature like Hampton was or because several injuries have thinned the position.
You can listed to Hoke interview in its entirety below.