The Pittsburgh Steelers have recently concluded their offseason schedule, complete with nine OTA practices and the three-day minicamp, and are currently off for about five weeks before they re-emerge in Latrobe for the start of training camp.
Not much is expected to happen between now and then as far as new goes regarding the team. Ideally, the players will simply be focused on getting in the best possible shape heading for the long haul that begins with training camp and concludes, hopefully, with a deep postseason run.
That means that the roster heading into camp should just about be set, so now during the dead time it’s worth taking a dip back into the positional depth charts to see where we stand following the offseason reports, continuing with the nose tackles.
Steve McLendon: After two years as a starter, McLendon is facing a fairly important season, and not just because he is entering the final year of his contract. Despite adding bulk last offseason in an effort to increase his durability, the veteran still missed four games due to injury.
In his final season before turning 30, it is more important than anything else for McLendon to show that he can play a full season without succumbing to the nagging injuries that have afflicted him under extended playing time in his career.
From the perspective of the front office and coaching staff, at least, there is no major concern about his on-field performance. Even while playing injured, he has been a solid defensive contributor. But durability and age will be factors in determining his future, especially if the player below shows up this year.
Daniel McCullers: McCullers, the Steelers’ second-year nose tackle, entered the league as a sixth-round draft pick with a reputation of being too big to play with the proper level and coming off the ball slow, in addition to issues regarding his weight and motivation.
He has addressed all of these concerns in the year-plus since he became a Steeler. His physical conditioning in particular has been praised this offseason, and he is expected to log a good deal more time in year two, as long as he shows himself to have a better grasp of the defense.
Cam Thomas: Thomas remains on this list, in this position, until he’s not. He started a couple games at nose tackle in place of McLendon, and should he make the team this year, he will inevitably be expected to play some snaps in the interior. But he is at serious risk of not making the cut this time around after joining the team on a two-year free agent contract last year.
Mike Thornton: An undrafted rookie signed after a rookie minicamp tryout, Thornton has long odds indeed to make the roster, especially since he probably won’t be playing special teams.
L.T. Walton: Drafted as a defensive end, I am listing Walton at both positions for now because I believe he was targeted in part because he possesses the size to slide inside comfortably in sub-packages, which has been an area of weakness as the team increasingly relies on more defensive backs. Though he was a draft pick, he is far from a shoe-in for a roster spot, however.