The Pittsburgh Steelers find that their 2016 season ended a bit prematurely, and are undergoing the exit meeting process a couple weeks sooner than they would have liked. Never the less, what must be done must be done, and we are now at the time of the year where we close the book on one season and look ahead to the next.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2016 season.
Player: Javon Hargrave
Position: Defensive Tackle
Experience: 1 Year
There are many who believe that Javon Hargrave deserved to be the Steelers’ rookie of the year, and I would not be quick to argue against that point. A third-round draft pick, from a small school, Hargrave none the less played right away in the rare instance in which the team still uses a nose tackle.
His role in the defense expanded greatly as the season progressed and injuries mounted. The Steelers actively scouted him as a non-traditional nose tackle who has pass-rush ability and flexibility to serve as an interior rusher in the nickel defense, their primary defensive package, and that is just what role he served.
Including the postseason, Hargrave registered three sacks during his rookie season, in addition to recovering a fumble for a touchdown. He registered 27 tackles in fewer than 500 snaps and added another eight tackles during the team’s three postseason games. Five of those tackles and his postseason sack came against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
One of my favorite things to follow all season was Hargrave’s development over the course of the year, particularly the way in which he used his hands in order to combat offensive linemen, either while rushing the passer or defending the run.
As a small-school product, he wasn’t regularly faced with talent that was his equal, and so he often got by on his mere abilities without having to rely much on fundamentals. Hand usage was something that he had to work on when he came to the professional ranks, and that is something that I can say with confidence that he has done.
The AFC Championship game was one of the best games that he played all season and regularly got the better of the Patriots’ interior offensive linemen, although the pressure didn’t always lead to a negative play for the offense.
There is plenty of reason to be optimistic for Hargrave’s future, and the future of the defensive line. He is a very talented and versatile player who is going to be an important part of this defense, and I would expect him to play even more time rotating with the team’s two starting defensive ends to give him more time off, which was not something we saw much early in the year.