It was the infamous Deion Sanders who coined the phrase, “If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good.” It’s a phrase the Steelers coaching staff hope rings true for a certain player along their defensive front, and if OTA’s are an indication, we could be in for big year from him.
Many Steelers fans can remember the countless times when former Steelers great, Casey Hampton, would show up to training camp vastly out of shape. To put it nicely, you can tell what players put in the work during the offseason, and which ones spent their time lounging poolside and eating cheese curls. However, when offseason workouts began in April and even now at OTA’s, teammates are still abuzz at the “new look” Dan McCullers, the team’s enormous second-year nose tackle.
“Everybody kept telling me that I looked good,” McCullers said, according to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I was like, ‘OK, but I don’t know what I did.’”
What he did was what any professional athlete should, and that’s not allow complacency to take effect. Instead of being content with where he is, he began putting in the work to get to that next level, and that’s not only in the weight room, it’s also on the plate in front of him.
McCullers has often battled the scale throughout his life, at times weighing in excess of 400 pounds. However, with one year of NFL experience under his massive belt, he knew bad eating was not an option, and he has dropped about 15 pounds since last season, to his current weight of 350. He says he noticed a difference the first week of OTA’s and not just for himself, but from coaches and teammates as well. “Especially when I am stretching,” McCullers said, according to Kaboly. “I lift up my legs and they aren’t as heavy.”
It’s very important for McCullers, making the leap from his first to his second year in the league. After settling into an NFL locker room, he obviously noted how some of the veterans go about their business and the manners in which they keep their bodies in peak condition to endure the rigors of an NFL season. After watching from the sidelines as an inactive for the first half of the 2014 season, his playing time increased as the season wore on, culminating in a season-high snap count in the playoff loss to Baltimore.
Versatility along the defensive line is crucial for Pittsburgh, and with less extra weight to carry around, it’s not out of the question for McCullers to play some 5-technique in certain packages. But according to defensive line coach John Mitchell, McCullers is a nose tackle.
“I don’t care how big you are, if you’re not in shape and you can’t do it, it’s not OK,” Mitchell said, according to Kaboly. “It’s not OK with me. I’m not going to pass him along because that guy can help us win football games and he knows how to be a good football player on this level.”
So for those of you planning to make the trip to Latrobe later this summer, there may be several Steelers who fail their conditioning tests but don’t plan on Big Dan being one of them.