No matter how good your team may be doing, there will always be a vocal cross-section of the fan base that, at any given point during the season, is already looking at who their favorite team should be drafting the following spring.
The Pittsburgh Steelers fan base is certainly no exception, and, though they finally went 11-5 and won their division, even the most diehard fan could not deny that the organization has some holes to fill.
While the offense improved, and is on an upward trajectory, there are still tweaks to be made, and successors to be found. The defense has struggled, and is switching coordinators, which may call for a slightly different type of player.
So we’ll take a look at the Steelers roster position by position in the early offseason to determine how each group stacks up in terms of draft need. The next position to go under the microscope will be the nose tackles.
Steve McLendon: Of course, there aren’t many options at the position, and only Steve McLendon has much extensive experience playing nose tackle for the Steelers on the team. He just completed his second season as the starting nose tackle, though it was, once again, not without its bumps and bruises.
McLendon missed four games and parts of others as a result of a nagging shoulder injury that flared up throughout the course of the year, and one wonders whether or not this might be a concern in the future.
With respect to his on-field performance, however, I believe that McLendon further silenced the majority of his critics who believe that he doesn’t possess the size to play nose tackle. What he may occasionally lack in sheer size he makes up for with speed and athleticism, adroitly navigating himself around cut blocks or cutting through a line to blow up a play in the backfield.
Daniel McCullers: McCullers was perhaps the most interesting draft weekend selection for the Steelers, a late-round flyer on a mammoth interior lineman who was deemed to be a project. For a project, however, he saw a reasonable amount of playing time in his rookie season, and he showed off some of his raw ability, driving back centers and opening lanes for his linebackers. He certainly has a way to go yet in harnessing his craft, but his first year on the job has left many optimistic about his future.
Cam Thomas: Thomas is currently listed here, but he may not find himself on the roster much longer. He started a couple of games in place of McLendon, moving from end to nose, but his overall performance regardless of position was largely received with negative reviews. With a $2 million price tag and no spot in the starting lineup, he’s likely to be relieved of his services.
Draft Strategy: Provided he remains healthy, McLendon is a sturdy option as a starter at nose tackle, and McCullers is an intriguing developmental prospect who arguably showed his best in his lengthiest outing during the Steelers’ playoff loss, suggesting that his arrow is still pointing up.
Still, the Steelers should be interested in finding a Chris Hoke type of player who can slide both inside and out for depth purposes. It’s risky to be only two-deep at nose. Perhaps somebody who could offer some versatility in sub-packages as well.