The Pittsburgh Steelers used a third-round draft pick on defensive tackle Javon Hargrave knowing that, in time he would need to serve in a multiple role as a part of their defensive rotation as well as the starting nose tackle. With Daniel McCullers sitting out the Steelers’ last preseason game, we got a glimpse of that future against the Saints, and, in spurts, it was quite impressive.
Although it took a while. The Steelers’ first defensive series resulted in a three-and-out, and only the second-down play saw the 3-4 defense on the field. On that play—a run-stop to the right for a loss of a yard—Hargrave was basically tackled to the ground sweeping to follow the play.
Two of his next three snaps in the game saw him occupied with the running back. On the first of those snaps, he actually dropped into coverage on the back. On the third play, he dropped off the line after reading a screen in the flat and ended up making the tackle after a three-yard gain.
For those wondering, Hargrave is capable of drawing a double-team block as a nose tackle, as he did early in the second quarter on a first-and-10 play that resulted in an incomplete pass. He has the size and athleticism to command multiple blockers, which is the traditional designation of the position, though it has evolved considerably in an increasingly pass-heavy league.
The reason that he is going to get double-teamed more and more, the more film there is of him? It’s because he’s just too quick and twitchy off the snap for offensive linemen to deal with. I caught at least three occasions in the game, and there were probably more, in which he quite easily just swam over the top of an interior defender who was, for the most part, trying to block him on his own.
The first of those occasions helped to induce a poor throw on a designed screen pass that resulted in an incompletion. One of them did turn into a sack, the first of what will certainly not be the last for Hargrave this season.
Offenses would be foolish to expect to handle Hargrave consistently one-on-one in passing situations, even with somebody of the quality of Max Unger at center, which was the case for the Saints two nights ago. He is simply going to be handful to deal with.
Although it is perhaps an area of his game that is still in development, he is also not lacking in strength, as he also had a number of successful bull rushes over the course of the game, and these he produced both as a 3-4 nose tackle and as a defensive tackle in the nickel defense. His sack came in the 3-4.
Hargrave finished the game against the Saints accumulating four tackles, a sack, and he also registered a pass defensed when he batted a ball down at the line of scrimmage. At a very early stage, he is proving his ability to be a disruption for opposing offenses.