Former Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton isn’t likely to ever be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but Friday night the former first-round draft pick was one of 14 athletes to be inducted into the University of Texas Hall of Fame.
Hampton, who played 12 years with the Steelers from 2001-2012, played in 54 career games and started 47 contests, including the final 38 games of his career while at Texas. He also was a two-time first-team All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior and became the first defensive lineman in the school’s history to lead the team in tackles in back-to-back seasons when he registered 101 tackles as a junior and 78 as a senior.
In 2001, the Steelers reportedly coveted Georgia defensive lineman Marcus Stroud and Miami linebacker Dan Morgan in the first round of the draft, but after both were selected before their scheduled 16th overall pick, they decided to trade down three spots with the New York Jets and that resulted in them selecting Hampton with the 19th overall selection.
“Casey Hampton will come in and fit in with how we play defense,” said former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher following Hampton’s selection. “He’s very powerful. He has a relentless motor.
“When you watch video tape of this guy, it’s the same thing week after week. He’s a very consistent, very productive player. If you look at our defense and the players on it, Casey will be a very good fit. I like his mentality. I like his demeanor.
“He’s a player we were looking for. He was the highest-rated player still on the board. We felt fortunate to get him.”
As a rookie, Hampton didn’t start right away, but it didn’t take him long to rectify that as he made his first start in the Week 7 game against the Tennessee Titans and never looked back. Hampton went on to start 164 regular-season games with the Steelers and was selected to the Pro Bowl a total of five times. He was a member of two Super Bowl champion teams and played in a third.
During his career with the Steelers, Hampton was an immovable force in the middle of the Steelers defensive line as a premier two-gap nose tackle that could eat up multiple blockers. That in turn allowed linebackers to stuff the run on a consistent basis. He registered 373 total tackles in 12 seasons with 85 of them resulting in either zero or negative yards gained.
Even in his final season with the Steelers, Hampton started all 16 games and finished that year with 26 total tackles.
Hampton’s career stat line, however, will never be able to define how good of player he actually was during his career. Only the game tape can do that and that’s why I stated he more than likely won’t ever wind up in the Pro Football of Fame. That’s certainly unfortunate.
When you look at the list of 35 defensive linemen that are currently enshrined in Canton, you will see that Curley Culp is probably the only one that ever played nose tackle in a 3-4 defense for a good portion of his career. Even though he has been enshrined, it took 32 years after he retired for that to happen.
Hampton’s job in the Steelers 3-4 defense was to make sure other players had opportunities to make plays and he did that job extremely well. In his 12 seasons in Pittsburgh, the Steelers defense had a top three ranking when it came to average rushing yards allowed in a game in 10 of them. Four of those seasons they finished ranked No. 1 in that stat and Hampton was one of the main reasons why.
I won’t hold my breath, but maybe in another 30 years the Pro Football Hall of Fame voters will recognize Hampton’s outstanding play during his long career instead of just looking at his lack of sacks in the stat column. As far as 3-4 nose tackles go, he was one of the best to ever play the position in the modern era.