The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Is this the beginning of the end for Daniel McCullers’ time with the Steelers?
If you have been following along intently over the course of the offseason, you may have read that Steelers fourth-year nose tackle Daniel McCullers has had to wait his turn quite a bit over the course of the past few months…and even then he didn’t always get it.
Generally assumed to be the second-string nose tackle after rookie Javon Hargrave beat him for the starting job last year, McCullers saw defensive end L.T. Walton log first-team nose tackle snaps ahead of him during the spring when Hargrave was injured.
Yesterday, Alex Kozora noted that Johnny Maxey was logging snaps at nose tackle, again ahead of McCullers in the pecking order. Walton is something that I wasn’t exactly shocked by, but to see Maxey, who is of a thinner frame—or at least was—taking nose tackle reps ahead of a nose tackle has to get that nose tackle thinking.
That could be exactly what the purpose of this is. It’s no secret that the Steelers, from his teammates to his coaches, have consistently campaigned in public comments to push him and to drive him, even though it doesn’t seem to have always actually delivered the results.
He needs to realize that the Steelers are now looking at potentially having four players in whom they might be comfortable allotting some time at nose tackle if need be, starting with Hargrave, of course, but also Walton, Maxey, and Tyson Alualu, which is something that they talked about when they signed the veteran free agent.
Clearly, Pittsburgh seems to be intrigued about the potential of having a lighter interior defensive presence this year, hoping to find flexibility in end-tackle-capable players. They were fortunate for years to have somebody like that in Chris Hoke, and then briefly in Al Woods.
That should worry McCullers quite a bit.