With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series—as well as the occasional veteran with lingering questions.
Show me something, Javon Hargrave.
Rookie third-round defensive tackle Javon Hargrave is the second rookie draft pick to be featured in this series, and the final player overall to be featured due to the prominent role that he is expected to assume in his rookie season. Of the other rookie draft picks, any prominent role that they play this season might be regarded as a pleasant surprise, I believe.
I don’t know that they can afford that sort of luxury when it comes to Hargrave, however, because the Steelers are hurting for depth along the defensive line, and they went out of their way to look for a defensive tackle body who is quick enough to penetrate and serve in the team’s nickel sub-package with two down linemen.
Hargrave was about as quick and explosive as any interior defensive lineman coming out of his draft class, and the Steelers believe that they skill set will translate at any level, but that does not mean that there is any apprehension about expecting to rely upon a player who is coming from the FBS level, no matter how dominant he may have been against clearly lesser competition.
While he has purportedly matched up well at every opportunity he has been given so far against a higher level of competition, whether or not he can consistently win against quality NFL starting offensive linemen is a reality that will not be adequately put to the test until meaningful snaps are taken for the first time in the regular season.
Hargrave is a player that they are, at least eventually, counting on to play a dual role, as he is expected to be able to be stout enough against the run to perform as a 3-4 nose tackle, but also quick enough to serve as a pass rusher in their nickel defense. How soon he can be trusted to handle both assignments remains to be seen.
At least when it comes to the words of the players and coaching staff, it doesn’t appear as though they are forcing him along and placing undue expectations on him, but when push comes to shove, they may well need him to be an important contributor this year, so it’s imperative that they see that from him before we reach that stage.