Over the course of the past couple of years, the Pittsburgh Steelers have undergone an uncommon amount of change, which could have been largely correlated with the fact that the team had finished 8-8 in consecutive seasons while failing to advance to the postseason.
In deference to general manager Kevin Colbert, the attitude used to approach the offseason in those years was that this was an 8-8 team and these were 8-8 players. It’s little surprise that a lot of things changed during those years.
Of course, some of the biggest changes that we see from year to year involve upward and downward movements with respect to playing time, which is something that occurs on virtually an annual basis.
A number of players on the roster this year will be expected to take on a larger role this season as they, for example, enter the starting lineup, but it doesn’t just apply to those who are on the field for the first snap of the game, and those players can be just as important.
One such player expected to take on a more significant role this season is nose tackle Daniel McCullers, who struggled to find much playing time for the majority of his rookie season as a sixth-round draft pick, even when Steve McLendon, the starting nose tackle, went down with a shoulder injury.
In spite of his gargantuan size, McCullers slid all the way to the sixth round because he had a good deal of questions surrounding him, ranging from technique to work ethic and passion for the game. The Steelers were the team that took the gamble on him, and they have viewed the early results positively.
Though he didn’t play much, he showed potential in his limited snaps, demonstrating pure power by driving linemen off the ball into the pocket. He hardly managed to register a single statistic, but he had little difficulty making his presence felt.
This was all done predominantly based upon his raw abilities, because he was far from a polished player last season, but that is the transition that he is hoping to begin making this offseason as he grows into the defense and understands his role within it.
The way he has been spoken of this offseason, it seems as though McCullers will be used as the fourth lineman this season, which means that he will likely rotate with McLendon at nose tackle and log a good amount of time in sub-packages as a tackle, perhaps even receiving some work at defensive end in the base defense.
Though he came to the Steelers weighing 350 pounds, he had the 6’7” frame to support it, which means that he was not necessarily un-athletic. Even John Mitchell mentioned the possibility of playing some end during his post-draft press conference provided that they got him to a proper weight.
McCullers took the initiative on his own to get in better shape this offseason, recognizing that football is now his profession, and all of the work that he has put into his profession should yield a greater volume of opportunities on the field in his second season.