End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Daniel McCullers
Position: Nose Tackle
Experience: 1 Year
It will be interesting to see who Daniel McCullers becomes in his second season in the Steelers’ defense. While he showed some promise during his rookie season, he had such a small body of work that it’s difficult to project his future, particularly as it relates to an increase in snaps.
The hope is, I suspect, that McCullers will be able to cement himself as the top reserve at nose tackle, which is a position that he shared with Cam Thomas a year ago, even though Thomas was, for the majority of the season, a starter at defensive end. Thomas started at nose tackle when Steve McLendon missed time earlier in the year.
Thomas may well be released within the next few days, however, and McCullers’ is the only body fit to log a good amount of snaps along the Steelers’ interior defensive line. Assuming that Thomas is released, Pittsburgh will likely look for a tweener defensive lineman who can play both positions, either in free agency or the draft. Who they pick up may be an indication of the confidence the coaching staff has in projecting McCullers’ future.
Were I to venture a guess, however, I would suppose that the team is high on the second-year mammoth’s potential going forward. They were upfront from the start about McCullers’ status as a project, and one could argue that he saw more action than one might expect for a rookie sixth-round draft pick, even if that was partially due to injury.
He is still raw, and must improve, but he has been improving. Getting off the ball quickly and playing with the proper pad level may be something that he struggles to contend with throughout his career, but he can continue to learn to manage it.
He could also learn a thing or two from the man playing in front of him about footwork and keeping your eyes forward as the play develops. McLendon is quite skilled at keeping his feet in traffic, which is an area that McCullers struggled.
One has to wonder if the coaching staff will want to stretch him out in year two, now that he has a grasp of the offense. It was discussed briefly after he was drafted that he could potentially also play defensive end (distinguished from a sub-package defensive tackle). He certainly has the height for it, and it would seemingly guarantee him a helmet on game day.