At this point in the offseason, we find that training camp is just around the corner for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the rest of the league, and a lot has changed for them over the course of the past several months. They have lost a number of players in free agency, through releases, and retirements. But they have also brought in a number of new faces to replace them.
We all know that roster turnover is an ever-present reality for today’s rosters, and it seems that over the course of the past half-decade or so even the Steelers have proven to be as susceptible to the annual shakeup as anybody. With that in mind, we should take the time to get to know some of the new faces with training camp soon to be here.
Next up on the list as we continue to introduce first the Steelers’ rookie draft class is their selection in the third round, and one of their most intriguing players, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. Hargrave is a player that ended up being personally vetted by none other than Joe Greene before the decision-makers pulled the trigger.
The merest hesitation in his selection resided merely in the fact that he is the product of a small school against whom only similarly-talented colleges competed. And while that is not a small caveat by any means, Hargrave showed the Steelers enough, aside from his domination at the FBS level, that his abilities will translate to any level of competition.
What they particularly admired about his game was simply the explosive manner in which he plays, consistently getting a good jump off the ball and getting into the linemen’s pads quickly. He can serve as a penetrator even if he is not the biggest and bulkiest of options as a traditional 3-4 nose tackle.
That is, indeed, a dual role that the Steelers eventually see laying before him, which explains the investment in the third round. At some point, they hope to see Hargrave as their starting 3-4 nose tackle, in so far that that is still a starting position, in addition to liberally spelling their starting defensive ends in the two-down-linemen nickel front.
Whether and how soon that all comes about remains to be seen, of course, as he has to earn those playing snaps, though the reality is that all of the major four candidates to assume the roles in question are fairly equally inexperienced.
Free agent Ricardo Mathews and second-year L.T. Walton are the candidates at defensive end who can play in the nickel, while Daniel McCullers is a third-year big-bodied nose tackle who may see most of the 3-4 nose tackle reps this season.
I believe, however, that Hargrave will be given as much snaps as he earns this season, and if he proves himself capable of handling playing nose tackle then he will see the majority of those snaps. If he shows able to get some pressure from the nickel, he could see hundreds of snaps as a rushing defensive tackle as well.