For as much as a large swath of fans clamored for the Pittsburgh Steelers to add some high draft picks to the secondary, there were also those, such as myself and some of my colleagues, who were equally concerned about the need for depth along the defensive line and another body who can line up at nose tackle as well as rush the passer.
Our wish was granted in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft when the Steelers drafted Javon Hargrave, a small-school product who is quicker and more athletic than he is gargantuan, and who was talked about as a player who can spell Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt as nickel pass rushers as much as he can play nose tackle in the 3-4.
So with all that in mind, it would not be a shock to imagine that there is some anticipation to get a look at how Hargrave is doing in his rookie training camp, particularly after the pads have come on, and we got a good look at the first day in pads yesterday thanks to Alex Kozora, but he spoke to Steelers Nation Radio prior to practice.
Asked about his camp so far, he said, “I’m really just focusing on just grinding right now. Just getting better every day and working on my technique. I just plan on getting better every day, and hopefully make an impact in the game.”
He was then asked about what he felt he was able to improve upon in his game from the spring to now.
“My finish [has gotten better]”, he said. “Just being in shape and being able to finish plays and chasing down the ball. I feel like I improved in that with my offseason training.”
Asked whether or not it was a conditioning issue that he improved over the break, Hargrave said that “it’s more just chasing the ball”. He talked about how it’s a different level in the NFL from a small-school college. “It’s different in this league. You never know what can happen, so chasing after the ball, finishing plays like that [is important].”
He also said that he feels he is getting better at rushing the passer during one-on-one drills, but was waiting for the pads to come on before he really knows where he is. He prides his ability to get after the quarterback, however, saying, “that’s all we’re about in the trenches.”
He has appreciated most of all the opportunity to go up against the likes of Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, and David DeCastro in practice, calling them “some of the great offensive linemen” and saying that “they’re just helping me improve my game by going against them every day”. “They got really good technique” he said, “which makes my technique got to be way better [rather] than just using my athleticism.”
He was also asked about his role in the nickel defense and how he is hoped to be able to spell Heyward and Tuitt. “they brought me in, I guess, to do that”, he said, “so I’m just here to play my role, whatever that role may be.”