With the 2016 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certainly players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far has sent their stock rising or falling.
Player: NT Daniel McCullers
Stock Value: Down
It would seem a bit difficult to describe a former sixth-round draft pick with minimal experience as having his stock lowered, but that is the case for third-year nose tackle Daniel McCullers in the wake of the 2016 NFL Draft, during which the Steelers were vocal about addressing the need for a different sort of player that he is, nonetheless at the position that he plays.
And, more importantly, Pittsburgh was able to get that player in the form of defensive tackle Javon Hargrave in the third round, and who may hold the greatest chance of all among the rookie class to serve as an opening day starter—provided that the defense opens in a 3-4 front, that is.
And that is a key, of course, because the Steelers do not believe that the 6’7”, 350-pound McCullers has the capacity to contribute in the team’s primary defensive package, which is the nickel, in which they function with two down linemen, primarily their starting defensive ends serving as tackles.
Depending on how quick a study the small-school product proves to be, Hargrave could figure to serve as the primary rotational player for those starting ends in the nickel defense as early as the season opener. That is a value that McCullers doesn’t even hold for the team.
The value that he does hold is as a true nose tackle, a big body that can clog the middle and generate pressure up the middle in rare instances through brute strength if necessary. Combined with the emergence of Hargrave and the fact that he has little evidence on film that he can do this on a high level, his stock has to be considered as down.
Of course, his stock began very much up early in the offseason after the Steelers saw three-year starting nose tackle Steve McLendon sign a contract with the Jets, whom they play later this season. After that free agent loss, McCullers was in line to serve as the team’s 3-4 nose tackle.
He may indeed begin the season in that role, but the Steelers are sure to frequent that package as little as possible, and will likely attempt to give some of those snaps to Hargrave until they are comfortable in moving him up the depth chart. Either way, it seems clear that he holds no long-term stability at this juncture, occupying a role that naturally limits his opportunities and value.